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The Karachi that was — and will never be

T-Faz

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After entering retirement, the scrap heap of life, one can’t help thinking about the time when Karachi was a great place to bring up one’s children. Girls used to cycle to school and people loved the old trams that trundled along from Empress Market to Kemari from where they would then hop into a sailboat that took them to the great picnic spots of Sandspit and Hawksbay. There weren’t many cars on the roads, but one still caught an occasional glimpse of a sporty playboy, scarf-in-the-breeze, roaring down Victoria Road in his pre-war MG, with his car full of bright young freeloaders with ravenous appetites. They were invariably heading for Cumpers Café Grand, which served the most delicious macaroon cake with almond icing and cucumber sandwiches. Life in those days was peaceful, serene and predictable.

In fact, what I miss most about the Karachi of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was the spirit of tolerance, secularism and open-mindedness that existed. There was also what Judge Morgan Freeman in Bonfire of the Vanities described as the qualities that distinguished a dishonest society from an honest one — decency and graciousness. In the early 1960s, on a stroll down Elphinstone Street, it was not unusual for a man to tip his solar helmet or raise his felt hat in the presence of a lady; and if she happened to drop one of her parcels, he would leap to her aid in a display of gallantry, escort her to her car and ensure that she was safely and comfortably ensconced in her seat, before popping his head into the cubicle of Jimmy’s Store for some pipe tobacco.

For the young at heart there was the Manhattan soda fountain which doled out iced milkshakes with exotic titles like Green Goddess, Hangman’s Blood and Purple Prince. Here schoolboys and schoolgirls returning from that huge imposing red sandstone structure near Empress Market cooled off in the hot summer afternoons, the ice clinking in their glasses like uncut Kimberly diamonds; and one often heard the gauche outpourings of an adolescent’s heart. For the man with an insatiable thirst there were the bars and saloons in Little Portugal with their swing doors and blaring radios. For those who preferred something more risqué and salacious, there were the fading continental blondes adept in the art of striptease who entertained customers at the Excelsior and the Oasis. On weekends the more sophisticated revelers headed for Le Gourmet, the rightful successor of the infamous Central Hotel Casino, which was run by a White Russian named Arty who has an inexhaustible supply of the distilled essence of grain.

Those were the days when no citizen of this blighted republic ever thought of migrating to Britain or the United States. There were no Mujahideen, no Taliban, no suicide bombers, no MQM, no PPP. One could still visit Old Clifton at night and listen to a wandering Sindhi minstrel playing his ek tara without fear of having one’s car snatched; and one could still enjoy great cuisine in roadside cafes without fear of somebody sticking a Beretta in his ribs and taking away his wallet and cell phone.

So, what went wrong?

What was it that turned a reasonably disciplined populace — which once could distinguish right from wrong and practiced the rule of law — into an unrelentingly miserable throng of disgruntled citizens who for years have had to ingest the vile emetic effluviums of a string of pathetic leaders?

The Karachi that was
 

AZADPAKISTAN2009

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wow , what a beautifully written article made me time travel into a Karachi that none of us probably ever remembers as described in these lines in above post ....


I think Karachi went to garbage because Pakistan did not develop new cities , and only city that had infrastructure got over crowded beyond belief , that it became a slum now in all honesty

a) No electricity
b) Water shortage
c) People coming in from villages and not knowing rules of society
d) Homeless folks sleeping on roads
e) Pollution
g) Cars and Trucks populating roads and beyond beleif rush hours and traffic
 

fd24

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It is indeed sad to see what has happened in one of the greatest cities of the world. It hurts even more when my father told me of the beauty and class of the place. Its a place where all people wanted to be in the 70s and 80s according to my father. It really hurts to see the demise and not be able to relate the stories he told me to the city i see now. I pray with all my heart the city gets back on track soon so i along with millions of others can enjoy the heritage and heart the land has to offer.
 

AZADPAKISTAN2009

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Me too I was told it was city of lights , and cleanest and most active cities of Pakistan and safe

It must have been nice to live in Karachi in 70's and 80's but in late 70's it started to change for worse due to war in Afghanistan

---------- Post added at 03:10 AM ---------- Previous post was at 03:08 AM ----------

Me too I was told it was city of lights , and cleanest and most active cities of Pakistan and safe

It must have been nice to live in Karachi in 70's and 80's but in late 70's it started to change for worse due to war in Afghanistan

Then illegal building construction , slums and grafitty due to PPP , PML , MQM ruined the beautiful city all I see is political garbage on walls and posters that they never bother to clean , and these parties have played a huge role in ruining the city not to mention the demonstrations and tire burning
 

pak-marine

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we heard such stories from our parents who were teenagers in those days or the grand parents , what this generation have seen i hope no city ever see such mayhem. The ulema might define this as a transit period whilst karachi getting islamophised
 

fd24

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^^^ Our forefathers are looking down and probably shaking their heads in disbelief at the situation. Maybe im an optimist but i truly believe a change in government later on in the year and a cocerted effort from IK and the boys could see the turn around in Karachi - i genuinely dont think it would take too much to get a grip of the criminal circles and demolish them. Lets pray the sooner the better - for the sake of our kids - let them see the real Karachi!
 

Karachiite

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Back in the 50s and 60s I heard they had proper bars and nightclubs in Karachi. Someone fired a gun in the air in the 50s and it made headlines because there was no gun culture in Karachi back then.
Mid 60s Karachi saw it's first violent massacre when Ayub Khan decided to unleash his wrath on Fatima Jinnah's supporters. In the 70s Islamization was introduced and in the 80s it just got worse with heavy violence. 90s saw ethnic cleansing by the state.
 

T-Faz

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It was in the last years of that treacherous Bhutto that Karachi and Pakistan started to loose its original qualities

Then Zia sahab finished it all forever.
 

pak-marine

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ji haan sahi kaha ap nay .. umeed par duniya qaim hai , its now few decades old though. Change of govt wont change a thing might supress things , a short relief .. there must be a long term solution to this madness and unfortunately i havent heard any thing from IK which wil help in any way
 

T-Faz

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Back in the 50s and 60s I heard they had proper bars and nightclubs in Karachi. Someone fired a gun in the air in the 50s and it made headlines because there was no gun culture in Karachi back then.
Mid 60s Karachi saw it's first violent massacre when Ayub Khan decided to unleash his wrath on Fatima Jinnah's supporters. In the 70s Islamization was introduced and in the 80s it just got worse with heavy violence. 90s saw ethnic cleansing by the state.
The bars, clubs and other such places were closed in the late 70's and early 80's by the government. This hurt tourism and led to the end of Karachi as a transit hub between the west and the far east.

Drugs boomed due to the Afghan war and the involvement of officials.

What we have today is a mess of many decades.
 

pak-marine

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Back in the 50s and 60s I heard they had proper bars and nightclubs in Karachi. Someone fired a gun in the air in the 50s and it made headlines because there was no gun culture in Karachi back then.
Mid 60s Karachi saw it's first violent massacre when Ayub Khan decided to unleash his wrath on Fatima Jinnah's supporters. In the 70s Islamization was introduced and in the 80s it just got worse with heavy violence. 90s saw ethnic cleansing by the state.
guess it always were the d*g generals who screwed this country upside down , infact not even karachi , quetta and peshawar are no exception either , they have become worst of the places
 

fd24

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It was in the last years of that treacherous Bhutto that Karachi and Pakistan started to loose its original qualities

Then Zia sahab finished it all forever.
Are you suggesting Karachi is beyond saving and it will never regain the historical significance it had decades ago?
Perhaps the political changes may not install the desired changes instantly - however the mindset inplaced by a new regime may be the catalyst we require for the long term benefits of the city? I believe Karachi has simply too much history and heritage to be "finished forever".
Remember bro Rome wasnt built overnight and time and patience may be needed - to make Karachi the roaring lion it was in the 60s and 70s. Lets not give in on Karachi...
 

DESERT FIGHTER

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guess it always were the d*g generals who screwed this country upside down , infact not even karachi , quetta and peshawar are no exception either , they have become worst of the places
It was Bhutto who banned it not Ayub or any other general... later his succesor Zia continued with his policy...
 

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