No Sweat


We woke to a crisp, sunny morning, with powdery snow which soon vanished – softening the harshness of the nearby mountains. Or so we wished. It was sunny alright but lights had been out for the past eight hours and it was sweltering hot. Occasionally, my brother and I would throw an angry glance at the open windows as if to reprimand them for not doing their jobs right. My grandmother was the most unperturbed of us all and she lay sleeping – interrupted only by her own snores, wherein she’d rub her nose, change sides and go back to sleep again. 

I lazily looked around. We were like pigs basking in the puddle of our own sweat. Normally, I would curse my woeful imagination but there really was no running away from the truth. In fact, if we ran, we’d slip, my mind continued, as if to test my patience.

Lights in Karachi had the knack of going out at the exact moment you set out to do something important. In 7th grade, it had gone out just as I was about to accept a friend request from a high school crush. Yesterday, it disappeared the moment I had written an online note to my brother asking him to order Chinese food.

And today it had darkened our doorstops just as I was ironing my shirt. I had gone to an interview with one sleeve of my shirt ironed flat, the other as if a handful of birds had wanted to build a nest on it. Thank God, I hadn’t started to straighten my hair yet.

This was us, the people of Karachi – always thankful for the crises that we just narrowly escape. People who would buy a UPS, a generator to back up that UPS, a generator for the first floor and another for the second and keep buying them until they were sure they won’t be left in the dark when KESC went missing in action, but they just wouldn’t go through the trouble of picking up their phones to register a complain.

My brother always said that was because KESC kept changing its complaint number but I disagreed.

People in our city had a really weird notion of what was protest-worthy. They would protest in the streets against killing in XYZ country, against films made by ignorant fools but God forbid, if somebody said anything that actually went wrong in their daily lives. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the people had more issues than the city itself and for a city with as messed up a security situation as Karachi, that was saying something.

Besides, who could blame the people? Surely, it’s because of the heatstroke they’re having, I thought as I reached out for the only book lying on the nearest shelf while shooing away a fly. It’s funny how difficult times can make people seek company in the unlikeliest of places but I hoped to God, it wasn’t Fifty Shade of Grey that I picked up because even for a difficult time, it’s way too much of an unlikely company. It actually turned out to be a book of quotes my friend had given me for my 20th birthday, who I hadn’t seen since.

And this is just something else about the city, that you had to get used to once it let you in. People here would tell you, you look great when they need something only to disappear for years until they need something again. They would congratulate you on your successes with the most plastic smile available to mankind and then would ask you to watch out as if to rain on your parade. Never on time, always on the lookout for the next big thing, this was Karachi, the city of doodhpatti since well, electricity has become a rare commodity.

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