When I arrived back in 1998, fresh out of college from the U.S, mind full of dreams and visions to change and shape my destiny into its finest hour, I always thought to myself, I shall make my mark and then go back to my life. Little did I realize that the city I was coming back to, would itself leave an astonishing mark on my mental and physical being.
It started out as a lark, studying the history of my birthplace, but as I kept on discovering new and uncharted facts, it kept my researching spirit alive until I have come to a point where I can claim to any who would listen that Karachi as a city is irreplaceable on the map of the world. So let me take you dear reader on the magnificent journey into the origin of this city.
Legend has it that this was the city where the great Alexander made his encampment to prepare his massive fleet for Babylonia after the campaign of the Indus valley was over. His Admiral Nearchus set sail from an island port known in that day as Morontobara, or as it is known to us today as Manora. The actual area was known as Krokola which literally translates into Greek as cheeseland. So why would the Greeks think of this city as one built on cheese? Very easyâ€¦ because almost everywhere one digs here you come across fine yellow sand underneath the coastal line, which perhaps reminded them of cheese.
As the years passed Krokola turned in Kolachi, but the birth of this great city was achieved by no mans hand. A woman named Mai Kolachi actually settled here and her family started a small fishing village giving it her name. No wonder the feminist spirit runs high in this place. It was also one of the first places in the subcontinent to start sea faring trade with Muscat as early as 1700â€™s. Kolachi jo Goth was the territory of the Khan Of Kalat and there was little here until the Talpurs seized it from him in 1795 and built a small mud fort at Manora. A little town grew under their patronage and reached a population of about 18000, until a ship changed the life of this place forever. That day was 1st February 1839, when a British ship – the Wellesley – anchored off Manora. Two days later the little fort surrendered without a shot being fired on either side. The fickle finger of fate had suddenly shoved the sleepy back-water towards becoming a megalopolis, a world city.
The achievements of our city over time are numerous for instance, this was the city which had the first telegraphic line laid from the subcontinent to London. The first messages from the conquered Indian empire were communicated from here. This is the birthplace of many idealists, one of the famous ones being Pakistanâ€™s founder Jinnah. It is also the place of which the famous British General Napier waxed eloquent when he said at his death bed â€œWould that I could come again to see you in your grandeur!â€
Shall we now zoom to the present day and view this great city?? What grandeur it isâ€¦.true it has problems like crime and pollution like any other mega polis in this world. It also has pot holes the size of small elephants, and turns into Venice itself when it rains. However let us not forget that even under all the grime and the dust generated by a teeming population of over 12 millions souls Karachi has never ever lost its charm or character.
It still has miles and miles of eye catching coastline, beaches by the dozen. Some yet even unexplored even in this day and age, expect perhaps by young couples looking for some privacy. It also has amazing food one can not find anywhere else in the world, with restaurants serving to every taste and palette open till all hours of the night. Were else can one find a Chicken Tikka at 4am? Truly this is the city that never sleeps, lest we forget it also has a population which can be best described as a melting pot of Pakistan and the rest of the world.
Everyone comes to Karachi, whether they live in Punjab or Papua New guinea and marvel at the resilience of its people. Who have seen so much in their life times that they are just not afraid any more. Is there any other city in the world which can boast the kind of night time atmosphere found at places like Boat basin or Burns Road with the prevailing almost non existent security conditions? Half the city is plunged into darkness on most days in the summer due to load shedding but one still sees people going aboutâ€¦ always in a hurry, always doing something, never ever bogged down by their problems.
We the Emigrants often tend to compare and downgrade our birthplaces to those we have visited in our years of stay abroad, yet we fail to understand that given the amount of problems this city and its administration face day in and day out, most major places in the world would be on their knees!! No not hereâ€¦here when there are cyclone warnings the beaches are thronged by people who want to catch the high waves. When there are riots or bombings the next days papers are full of pictures of people volunteering just because they were there. This is the city which had so much to give when the quake in the northern part of Pakistan occurred, there were not enough planes to carry the relief supplies there. This is the city of Philanthropists, the city of Poets & Scholars, the city of music and the city of lights, may it always shine like the pearl it is, illuminating those who would care to understand its luster.