It was about the month of December when I paid a visit to the Karachi International Book Fair, which held every year at the Expo Center Karachi. Paying a visit to every bookstall was an uphill task, so I decided to pay my visit to a few specific yet renowned bookstalls.
Fortunately, I got to see the bookstall of “Oxford University Press” from where I bought a wonderful book titled “Karachi – Our Stories in Our Words” by Manizah Naqvi.
Being a Karachiite, I am fascinated about the history of my city as everybody else does, and always look up to discover the stories created under the name of this city. This book “Karachi – Our Stories in Our Words” is also a collection of 99 stories based on Karachi written by unique writers for a competition arranged by Oxford University Press – edited by Manizah Naqvi.
Reading this book, one after another chapter, it realizes me of the transformation from which this city had been through and still going to this date. The stories of old Karachi, the Karachi of pre-partition times, post-partition, and since after that. The diversity Karachi holds, not only in terms of races but religion though. Therefore, you’ll find the mention of Victoria-wala [Horse Cart], old city areas, old names of the streets, and else.
Going through this book, I also came to know about the essence and beauty, this city loses from time to time in the face of violence. The political divide which further resulted in ethnic violence. Waves of communal riots and sectarian killings. All have been covered in the form of tragic and painful stories, the people of this city have faced.
You find the story of a sad old man and his pigeons portrayed by Syeda Wajiha Akram. An old man, who have spent his whole life seeing the ups and down of the city, is a bit saddened regarding the situation of his city in the final stages of his life.
Another amazing story with the title “Our Last Azaan” by Asmara Malik, in which she puts light to other capital cities of their provinces including Karachi. In this story, she beautifully defines the phrase “Karachi is Hell”.
Yet another masterpiece was written by Faraz Mehmood titled as “The Heirloom”. This is one of my favorite stories from this collection. Faraz beautifully defines the character of ‘Mehtaab’ who works for a business tycoon as a “Khansaama“. The tycoon women blackmail Mehtaab and deprived him of its necessities and belongings, later meets the ill fate of nature.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, this book comprises of several wonderful and heart touching stories related to this city. Stories that reminiscences about the splendid nature that differs this city from other cities of the world. From stories like ‘the clash of the poor girl with a rich one that ends at heartwarming note’ to “Karachi, Then… and Now.”, this book has a lot more stories to inspire us, to give us a ray of hope, to thrive, and hope for a better future.
Among all the inspiring and bright stories, I felt broken and terrible about the pain and trauma, the people of this city suffered from, as the majority of the stories linked to the violence continued decades in this city. Such is the intensity of that violence that not only reflects on our minds, but affects our daily lives, and even affected badly our culture and literature, for which this book is a handful proof.
Ending this piece, with my most loved para from this book, quoted from the story “The Old Man and The Pigeons”, as it says:
“I hadn’t ever thought much about life in Karachi but the pieces were gradually beginning to fall into place, it was as if a mist that had enveloped my mind was beginning to lift. As long as you had something going for you in this city, even it was nothing more than afternoon tea, being able to see a sunrise and set each day, and trusting pigeons feeding out of your hand, (or having some street food in the evening), there would be a tomorrow. And there would be hope.”