Resilience, I have often heard, is a quality of Karachiites. Resilient enough to brave ethnic warfare, militancy, street crime, the breakdown of the state’s machinery, political upheaval, power cuts, the ban on shisha and keeping a straight face when meeting Chand Nawab.
May God never curse another city with this.
On Monday afternoon I was greeted right at my doorstep by a gun-toting man and his accomplice. After one of them had waved the gun around, made a rather ominous noise with it and then reached into my cab to demand I hand over my bag and cell phone, they drove off. My last thought was of how they looked rather ridiculous with my fuchsia handbag stuffed between them on the motorcycle.
And then I began to panic. It was a textbook response: hands shaking, stuttering, couldn’t breathe.
And then I wondered. Resilience? Really?
This isn’t the first time I’ve been robbed, and if I have the misfortune to live in this city for any longer, it probably won’t be the last. The great part about the ‘resilience’ of Karachiites is that they’ve seen much worse, and have had one, or several guns, directed at them before.
But on Monday afternoon, as I panicked about what I needed to get blocked first – SIM? cell phone? debit card? – I looked at some of the responses on Twitter to my update about being mugged.
One fine person wondered if I had “too much bling”, another thought it wasn’t right to “curse” and about two dozen wanted to know “where” it happened. (Even if it was on the moon, people, it was still a mugging.) Another thought I had finally been exposed to crime – as if being shot at and temporarily losing partial hearing in one ear wasn’t enough.
Of all the people I dealt with to get everything sorted, the police were the most helpful. “Bandeyan nu maar hi deinge,” offered the man filing the initial complaint. “Why not see the course of justice through?”
“The court will set them free.”
“So what happened?”
“Well I was robbed..”
“My bag was taken away..”
“So it was a snatching!” the police officer crowed. “A snatching and a robbery are two different things.”
The other officer – who asked my father where we were from because I have apparently picked up Sindhi mannerisms and he was confused at how to ethnically profile me – bragged about how the cops had shot a couple of robbers a few days ago.
“So that’s what happened that night*?”
I saw the man they had shot, being dragged into a police van. The crowd watched, the rickshaw I was in slowed down and the cops crowded around their targets. “Our men were there you know. They robbed one couple, then another, then a third.”
He filed the FIR, I came home and became another statistic.
*Refers to the power blackout in Karachi’s South district last weekend. The only light on the street was from the house that had switched on all the exterior lights, in a bizarre, ‘look how much power we have’ moment.