Sep 13, 2010 - Society    15 Comments

The mental map of a lost city


Many apologies for this month long absence. Those of you who thought that I was in some kind of danger after writing my previous post let me assure you that I am alive and breathing. Contrary to popular belief, country’s premier spy agency has better things to do than follow my ultra boring and mundane life. The reason I was on self imposed hiatus was because I had to leave my beloved hometown and I was kind of sad and suffering from a combination of lack of creativity and supreme lethargy.

It is not like I have never been away from Karachi. I have lived abroad when I went to college and have worked away from home as well. I have done my fair bit of traveling for work and pleasure and I had always been happy to go away. This time, I left the city with a heavy heart, perhaps because I know that I am not gonna be living in the city anymore, a city which is perhaps one of my strongest identities and the city which has helped me tremendously in becoming who I am. I have always been a Karachiite and the idea of developing a new identity was not something I was keen on.

As the plane took off and I bid adieu to my beloved city, I worked the mental map of the city. Ever since I was a little girl, I would wake up and try to imagine how my day would turn out, how bad would the traffic be? What will I see on my way to school, to work, to gym or wherever I plan to go that day? It sounds crazy but I even know the potholes of the roads I used to drive on and would know exactly where to swerve to avoid them. For me, most places in the city have some kind of history attached to it; the roundabout at Dhoraji is where a tanker hit my car and I survived to tell the tale. My school, the roads where I learned to drive, my first car and my first accident. I remember my first day at my first job when I pass by the building where I spent first two years of my professional life. I remember the places where I made my first best friend and the place where I lost a dear friend. The places where I grew up, the numerous trips to the beach, the very persistent camel walahs who offer camel rides at the beach, the parks where my friend and I would go for walks and would give up after 2 or 2.5 kilometers instead of the 5 kilometers we earlier planned on, the famous chat wala, my chosen old book seller at the Sunday Bazaar, the florist who would give me best rates for fresh flowers, my preferred pumping station and my favorite attendant at the station (yes, I am weird enough to have a favorite petrol pump attendant) all make up the beautiful and unique map of Karachi. I was overwhelmingly sad at leaving the city which I have learned and loved over a life time – my life time – for various reasons and was wallowing in self pity.

My bout of self pity ended earlier today when I visited a flood relief camp in Charsadda and met with some wonderful and resilient people who want to rebuild their lives after the havoc wreaked by floods which not only claimed their worldly possession but also some of their loved ones. I met this wonderful woman Meher Gul who lost her daughter-in-law and grandson but is determined to go back and build a life for the rest of her grand children. Here I was lamenting a move I planned with all my worldly possessions intact when there are people who were forced out of their homes with nothing but clothes on their backs and they are upbeat and positive. I still have my city to go back to but they will have to rebuild theirs to regain something of their old lives.

Here is hoping that they manage to do that.

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  • I just wanted to tell you that it’s okay to feel bad about leaving your hometown even if around you people have problems which are worse! It matters to you that you live in Karachi no longer and that surely gives you a lot of claim on self-pity.

    Just take heart in the fact that one day, maybe, you’ll find yourself living there again.

  • who can blame you, Karachi is this shit.

    Farewell, Adieu, So long, may you return soon to the only Pakistani city that actually matters.

  • Well for Apa’s sake, good that you’re back. My sister was freaking out thinking about where you went. I told her that you died of intense sarcasm, which needless to say, wasn’t taken too lightly.
    Apa – I know you’re reading this. Happy that she’s back??

  • It’s always sad to leave the place where you are brought up. And, truly one counts one’s own blessings in the times of tragedy. At least, you are doing something to help the people who are suffering so much.

  • Yes Alpha bhai,

    Karachi is the shit. I knew it bachpan se and I am realizing it more now that I am away.


    Please tell your sister that I almost died of boredom induced coma, but I guess my survival instincts are much stronger 🙂

  • Well a nostalgic person is one who has a past perfect present tense…
    welcome back – I hope you did not leave your sense of humor behind.

  • Very moving post.

  • Where are you moving to Tazeen? A different pakistani city?

  • Where are you moving to Tazeen? A different pakistani city?

  • i hope so too… May Allah give them strength…

  • Hope some part of Karachi feels just as sad at losing you 🙂

  • I grew up in saudia, from kindergarten to 12th grade. then moved to Karachi to graduate. lived there for 6 years. then came to USA. been here for a while now. In each country I had to make friends all over again. which one to call hometown; saudia: where i spent about 16 years but can’t go back to even look at the school i went to….Karachi: where I lived for a little while but fell in love with its liveliness amidst all the political turmoil that was happening there, or USA: where i’m growing my family….which one is my hometown?
    but still nothing even closely compared to the loss of flood victims.

  • Bonjour Tazeen,

    Good luck for your new destiny, where ever that may be. As the Romans said “ubi bene, ibi patria”, though not altogether true.

    You said “a lost city” but you did not really explain: lost to you or lost in itself??


  • hi tazeen.i too suffered from this self imposed pity.and i am glad that you recovered soon.

  • hi tazeen.good post.i too suffered from this self-imposed pity.but i am glad that you recovered soon.

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