An absurd piece originally written on the 15th of January.
Shops are still sleeping with their shutters wide shut. It is 7:30 am as I speed past these closed shops and abuzz dhabas with comparatively slower flashes of chai being poured from a big steel saucepan into small, murky, translucent glasses. This is a common site in Karachi at every commercial nook and cranny along side occasional stalls of warm clothes (being sold at very economical rates). Another treat to the eye are dry fruit and seasonal fruit vendors, infrequently lining up the footpaths.
I say ‘slower flashes’ because a rickshaw is still comparatively slower even at its fastest. Yet rickshaws allow a great deal of visual experience from either of its open entrances.
But its a winter morning and its not the usual kind of cold today. It’s not the mild, pleasant, characteristic-of-Karachi cold today (those who have lived here for a while would know what I am talking about). It’s different. Perhaps that is why the rickshaw driver has also taken measures and fastened removable doors at either sides. And although that obstructs my view of the world outside, I couldn’t be more grateful to him for this kind gesture of good will.
The cold today is silent, even merciless. It has forced me to stuff my hands under the long pockets of my woolen jacket as I sit completely wrapped up from head to toe. Its the apathetic kind of cold which discourages people from taking their hands out of their pockets to shake with others. Its the kind of cold which discourages people from stretching their chapped lips from one end to other. Skin around the mouth is too dry and torn and smiling hurts. Its the kind of cold when people avoid shaking hands with and smiling at each other and even though Farees says its nothing in comparison to where she lives (negative degrees of Toronto), it’s still a biting chilling, windy cold. And Farees understands. The kind of cold which would make you rather uncomfortable than cozy with your cup of coffee because the cold wind does not only lance through the nostrils but also blows away the warm vapour rising from the cup like the phantom of cold spirits.
And as I sit here in the rickshaw making mental notes for this write-up, fragmented verses of Rossetti’s ‘Winter-My secret’ are continuously echoing in my head: Today’s a nipping day, a biting day/ whoever shows, his nose, to Russian snows, to be pecked at by every wind that blows. And it feels like Rossetti wrote it for this day (though Karachi has never seen a speck of snowflake), but the poetry pretty much understands my state of mind. Perhaps to get a better idea of what I am saying, you could check out the whole poetry (with analysis) here:
So where was I? Yeah, I basically do not want anyone to be pecking at my nose today. Do not want anyone asking how I feel. What am I up to. Nothing. I want to stay behind a thousand veils and blankets, hidden in the rickshaw for God knows how long, secretly observing the world outside from this battered plastic window in the rear of the rickshaw. Beautiful yet weak golden rays filter through my eye lashes from this translucent window and somehow I feel useless and content at the same time. Its the kind of cold which makes you believe there’s no purpose to life whatsoever but which also assures you that you’ll do just fine sitting in this rickshaw all day long without the need of speaking to a human or smiling to a soul. You can sit here all day with a poker face and peacefully succumb to sleep or death whenever it comes.
Why I write this? To acknowledge the cold. To recognize the power it has had over me, my mood, my behavior. To make me reflect over the coldness that resides within me, and even more strongly, give hints of the warmth that has been hiding in some crannies of my heart. So next time, if you are feeling like a detached, uncommunicative, stolid misanthrope- it’s probably not your fault, it’s probably just the weather.
The pictures have definitely not been taken by me and downloaded from google after a rigorous search because the day I wrote this piece on, I could harldy even take my hands out of the pockets, let alone hold the cold phone to take pictures. However I have carefully selected those which were the closest to what I usually saw on the roads everyday in winter. It has only been an attempt of sharing some of the visual experience of Karachi winters with you guys.