‘The city consists of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past…A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all of its past. The city however does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps…’ (Calvino, 1974: 10-11)
Like the city of Zaira, Karachi contains its past between layers of memories, each having a narrative of its own replete with personal history and anecdotes that help us understand the city for what it was and how it has changed over the years.
In his essay on Karachi, In the Eye of the Storm, the author introduces us to the Saddar of his youth. His essay reveals a fascinating journey through Saddar one unknown to the present generation of Karachites who have perhaps seen it only at its worst. Today Saddar is little more than a traffic clogged node of transaction for people trying to get from one part of town to the other. The presence of the Central Bus station, multiple bazaars and commercial buildings has added to the congestion and unmanuverability of the place. By night Saddar is a favourite haunt for drug addicts and the homeless. The Saddar of Khan’s University days however was a golden glittering Saddar, the centre of all creative and cultural activity in the city. The author navigates the streets disappointed to find that the cafes, patisseries and bookshops of his youth have now been completely taken over by electronic shops and commodity markets. He recounts his own narrative of frequenting the chai khokas or tea dens on his way from university where student youth groups used to gather to exchange intellectual and political thought over cups of tea and espresso. Cafes would fill to full capacity to hear upcoming poets and orators engage in intellectual repartee. The streets were filled with bookstalls and booksellers and going to the cinema to watch Shakespearean movies was a...
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