December 28, 2016
Redshift and blueshift describe how light changes as objects in space (such as stars or galaxies) move closer or farther away from us…Visible light is a spectrum of colors, which is clear to anyone who has looked at a rainbow. When an object moves away from us, the light is shifted to the red end of the spectrum, as its wavelengths get longer. (1)
Karachi is feeling quite strange. It’s like visiting your past but everything seems different. Really it’s most like a dream. Probably the first time I opened the screen door myself to come inside after arriving. Otherwise usually my grandfather is already standing in the threshold, intently waiting for us.
The downstairs home was the main floor of activity for so many years, and now it no longer feels like a home. There are no clothes hanging in the bathroom, no prayer mats piled in the corner, no bugs even. My mom says the life of a home comes from a stove. And I believe she’s right. There is no actual stove anymore, only a portable one used for chai. Early morning when she makes tea, the house in those moments feels like a home again. And where are the people? Where’s Umair speeding by? Where’s Danish lying on the couch? My mom and aunt sit and reminisce about their own mother, how she’d wake up early when she was around, and those mornings felt like real mornings. I feel as though my Nani’s house doesn’t exist even though I’m writing from inside it.
I’m hopeful it’ll get better and I’m to learn something. There are still many people upstairs which I’m greatly thankful for. The ground floor just feels very, very strange without Nana Abba and Farheen baji and the kids. Ahmed’s absence is also apparent. He would appear throughout the day, smiling, talking, always helping out with things.
The city is in bad shape. We went out in a ricksha today. Usually that’s just a joyride. Today it provided us with a blatant lens. Roads are broken. There’s dust everywhere. I don’t ever recall it being like this. Even the water feels like there’s dust in it. Everywhere else, it’s in the air and ready to invade any accessible membranes—nose, throat, eyes, skin.
The most disturbing thing however is the amount of trash outside. We pulled up to Dolmen mall at Tariq Road, and the median island where flowers belong was instead heaped with piles of garbage. I couldn’t believe it. What happened in Karachi?
But there is that which always feel good here. The chai, the sound of crows in the morning, wearing a dupatta on your head, and my goodness the guavas—some things feel so perpetually wonderful in Karachi.
I’m trying to figure out what to do about my face. It feels so insulated. Unfortunately the ground in front of our house is in terrible shape too. I was counting on taking walks in the morning but it just doesn’t seem secure enough, in addition to the aforementioned dust. I’d have to wear a full chadar to sidestep unwanted stares, but then my Jordans right below would probably foil the chadar’s efforts. Maybe I can jhaaru the floors for a workout.
There was almost nothing in the stores at the mall. Everything is either made in material suited for much colder weather, or it’s outright distasteful.
My mom looked like she felt bad I didn’t buy anything. At the very end I asked for a few minutes in Liberty Books. It’s so exhilarating visiting bookstores in Karachi, shelves stacked with Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and Agatha Christie. I love the way books are arranged here too. It’s a lot more interesting. Broad genre sections—young adult, regional fiction, current affairs—alphabetical order curtly dismissed. And there’s different books here too. All the disappointment in the mall was resolved easily by those 20 minutes. I came home with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Harry Potter Book 6, and something called Tales of Toyland by Enid Blyton.