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To Karachi, with love.



Karachi knows how to keep you on your toes. It is an art this city has mastered. If I had to describe this feeling, it would be like falling in love with an individual who is so aloof. It is like they are right within the arms of your reach but not quite you see. It is like that lover you do not trust yet and maybe never will.


It has been six years since I moved away from Karachi - the city I grew up in. This city I was born in was named after a woman. This city where I am just a fleeting guest occasionally. There is a flood of emotions that are coexisting within me this time around because on all my last visits I was angry. Angry for all the things nobody ever apologized to me for. Angry for all the hurt that I had deal with all alone. But this time around, I have come with my heart a bit lighter or more like I have been learning the process of forgiving. Or should I say, I have been healing. I can't seem to pinpoint towards one so maybe it is all of them combined.


I walked into my childhood room, and it suddenly felt like I was a teenager again. I look towards the left there lay my overly stuffed bookshelf in all its glory. I see are my prized collection of books -fiction and poetry. While poetry and I have not divorced each other, I can't help but sit down by the floor and think. When was the last time I read fiction?

I outgrew that.


I walk towards the right where my desk lay - a desk that is rusty, old, woody, and has scrapes all over it. The boxes of my prized stationery and whiff of old paints remind me of all those nights that I fell asleep on this desk writing, creating, and painting. Yes, painting.

I outgrew that as well.


I open the door to my walk-in closet and see that my mother has lined rows of new kurtas for me. These kurtas have prints on them. She knows that I hate prints and anything vibrant, yet gets me things according to her taste. I guess, somethings do not change. I am more of plain solids person. Or should I say, I am high key obsessed with anything white.

I guess, I haven't outgrown that.


I spin around the room, and I remember it being larger. Today, it seems to be smaller. Or maybe, it is serving as a reminder that I outgrew this place as well. I stand in front of the mirror and a wave of old school nostalgia washes over me. I see a version of me that I have carefully crafted through healing, learning, and unlearning. But then I also recognize that the people in this city disapprove of this version. I am expected to adorn an old version of me like a cloak to fit in their needs like always.


A cloak that makes me feel like this city is closing in on me. I feel congested. It is like the air sucked in nauseates me with tribulations of the past. I carry an armour with myself around here because I am constantly reminded to make myself small, unseen, and just not worthy. They say it is nothing personal and I can't help but wonder back to the day I was born, and it was said, "oh, a girl. I hope you have a better luck next time."


You see I have developed a very thick skin since childhood, but this toxicity is gnawing on me. I remind myself of Iqbal’s words.


تُو شاہین ہے پرواز ہے کام تیرا

تیرے سامنے آسمان اور بھی ہیں

‘Tu shaheen hai parwaz hai kaam tera

Terray samne asmaan aur bhi hai.'


I am trying to dismantle this version of me that everybody keeps on holding onto.

I am a child of wilderness. Wild and free longing to belong to nowhere and no one.

Leave me in the mountains or by the ocean and I will write you a poem about how much you tried to break me, but I rose and healed.


If only if it was that easy to walk away from the demons of our past or more like the demons that are related by blood. If only our nurturers understood when Khailil Gibran said; ‘your children are not your children they are sons & daughters of life’s longing for itself they come through you but not from you…’

If only they did.

If only despite all these emotions that are transcending within me the emotion of guilt wasn't hardest. The guilt of missing out on the small things. That while I was too busy healing and making peace with myself, my parents were growing greyer and older. I see them this time around and I see more faint lines, the wrinkles, the added step of medicines on their nightstands, and the slowing of their gait. I see all this and the guilt seeps in.


But then I remind myself that I was everybody's caretaker since I was twelve and I should not feel guilty for putting myself first. The brain understands that but how do I tell my heart to understand this too? How do I get my heart to comprehend that I have got a confession to make. I have fallen out of love with Karachi. This city that I grew up in. It is a fact that my gut has known for a while now, but I found myself running away from the truth. But now it just seems like I have nowhere to run anymore.


I find myself unhinged. Unraveled. Unbound.

I no longer seem to know the contours, the curve of the spine, the voice, the pulse, the touch, the fading streetlamp, and the dried paper bougainvillea. I seem to know nothing of this city anymore.


I seem to be questioning myself is it the city that I do not recognize or is it myself? I am a stranger in the streets because I feel like one. I did not even realize when I started to erase marks of this city from myself until it was too late. So, what am I supposed to do when I realize that I am falling out of love with this city? I mourn. Because mourning is also an act of love. A lamenting act of love not a goodbye.


I guess, home will never feel like home again and that is okay.



Love, light and healing.

Until next time,

Shanzay.

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