(14th August Special)
And I'm told:
- we had people who worked in makeshift canvas tents and used cardboard boxes as office furniture. They didn't ask for salaries, because they knew this new country could not afford it.
- we had a Prime Minister who refused expensive clothes, because the common Pakistani could not afford them. We shot that Prime Minister dead, and now we forgot him. We erased him from our school books. Sometimes we label him as a traitor.
- there was a time when little children used to walk to and from school without any fear. These same children grew up, frightened to death of letting their own children step outside. Why?
- we had a quaint Tram service in Karachi. We burned the trams, ripped the rail-track off the road, and sold it as scrap metal.
- we had double decker buses, like those you see in London. We burned them, and left them as trash.
- we had an education system, and it was not surprising to find the best doctors, teachers, engineers and scientists coming from Government schools. Now we mock them as "neela" "peela" school or Urdu medium.
- we had one of the best hockey teams in the world. A team that got us Gold at the Olympics... true heroes. We replaced them because they were not the 'right' ethnicity. Hence, we lost our pride.
- We had a physicist who is celebrated the world over, a Nobel Laureate, but we shunned him. We conveniently forgot him. Instead we chose to celebrate ignorance. Knowledge and Wisdom have no place in our hearts and minds.
- We had a free, open environment, where foreigners liked to visit.... we drove them away by our wild calls for extremism.
- On Sundays, every church in Karachi used to be a busy place, with bells clanging and people greeting each other warmly. My parents remember going right up to the windows, and looking in. Now we have walls around churches that are sky-high, and we can not go inside without feeling like strangers.
- A library ship called Logos used to dock every year at Karachi Harbour... kids would rush upon the decks, and choose books from the world over. The sailors used to enjoy evening strolls at Keamari, walking around town, having a drink at the bar and trying to talk to the native children. This ship does not dock anymore, because we threatened our Christian volunteers, who used to help in setting the library up. We lost Logos.
- There was a time when bus stops had a "time keeper", a guy who would tell you when the next bus would go by. And he was rarely wrong.
- There was a time when people respected "Ladies" who were out about on their business, dragging children through shops, and waving down a rickshaw. Now the ladies are scared to step out. Even if they do, we like to sit around and giggle as they go by, or we hit them with pebbles to ensure they realize they are second class citizens.
- There was a time Karachiites used to talk of going to Cox's Bazar, or going to Chittagong for a holiday. Children had the option to learn Persian or Bengali at school. But we oppressed our other half, until they wanted nothing more to do with us. Then we lied about it in our history books. And still do.
- There was a time when the streets of this city were washed and scented every morning, and the Clock Tower used to be a great help to the pedestrian on the street. The clock Tower is broken, and the streets are choked with traffic.
- There was a time when this city had potential to become a great city, instead we threw out proper town planning, we let overpopulation and rural migration take hold of it, and sat back enjoying the disaster.
- There was a time when we had some respect for our History, and protected our heritage with fierce love. Now we look down upon it, and feel it's better if the extremists blow up all the statues. Or we'll sell those statues to other countries in black anyway.
This was a past that my grandparents lived, my parents saw, and I can only hear about and imagine.
Once, I remember I was going somewhere by train. In the middle of the deserted landscape of Upper Sindh, our train stopped for 5 minutes. It was around late afternoon. I saw a child from the nearby village, walking beside the train, dragging a plastic bottle filled with dirty water. She was about 6, her tattered clothes hardly covering her little form. She gazed in such wonder at us, at our train. Such wonder in those eyes. Then our train moved and the child stood there transfixed. When people talk of Independence, of this Beloved Country... I often wonder, did that child even know what Independence is? does she recognize the flag of this country? Does she know our Glorious History? Our past? And most of all, does it matter to her? Does it matter that she is free? Is she?