Karachi Kahani…Barsat. (A reminiscal short story)
Tere Naina Sawan Bhadon, Phir Bhi Tera Man Piyasa, wailed the sweet melodious female singer from across the border, on “yeh Akashwani hai”. I would intently listen to the repeat of names who did “Farmaish”, repeatedly of the same songs so popular in those days. Someone from Ahmedabad, someone from Zahedan and someone from Karachi. It seemed that the pleasures were fully enjoyed, sucked up by these audience again and again.suddenly a diin. “Baarish ho gaee, Eeee!” everybody who was inside ran out. Rain in Karachi was such a pleasure. My cook would announce rain, as if it was his best salad, which he would insist that we ate with his ”Dicresson”, decoration he meant?
His name was Puttan, a thin man with topi on his head, loose pajamas in cotton, sherwani with worn out collar, high cheek bones and an “eternal” straw basket in his hand. This basket adorned all Karachi households till late, right upto a few years back.When the supermarket, superstores overtook our simple, “kiryana” or “Parchoon Ki Dukan Walla “merchant.
Back to Puttan. He would leave his kitchen early in the morning for grocery shopping everyday. By 12 noon his extensively laid table for lunch would be driving him crazy . The center would be a fresh vegetable salad platter. Carrots cut into long slivers, julienne and others. Beetroots always in the inevitable “Rose” design, and the “Moolis” which I hated when I was a kid. Every “sabzi” has to be eaten. God has created every vegetable and fruit in the season so that we eat and derive maximum benefit. My father would sermonize each time a child was hesitant to eat a vegetable. We would religiously chew, and chew. Puttan would beam from ear to ear, proud, swaying his thin frame, hands folded in front while my family enjoyed his lovingly prepared lunch. Sundays was a different story. I never remember Sunday lunch. Maybe the memory is overshadowed by other interesting Sunday doings and happenings.
This rain woud have a smell, “Soondhi, Soondhi , Mitti Ki Khushboo”. As the rain fell over the reddish brown sand of Karachi, so unpolluted , so clean on those days, almost delectable, we would scream and dance and get wet.
“Array Logo, Pakoray Tau Banao” was heard from the ladies. “Aur Kachorian Bhi” , some menfolk would interject. Pakoras and Kachoris were the gram and flour delicacies that were symbolic of the rain.
The pleasure I had was not from raindrops falling on my head, I do not like that even today, but from watching people using various contraptions to cover their heads and clothes. Rain being rare in Karachi, we hardly had umbrellas or raincoats. So I would simply howl with laughter when a guy would pass on a cycle using a hay sac, a “Bori” for a over.Someone would use a tarpaulin. Plastic was rare in those days , maybe not used at all.
So the raindrops would fall, at first a few sandgrains change their colour from lighter brown to darker brown. The pattern would fascinate me. I would lie still, my nose close to the floor, my eyes darting, chasing, following each wet drop as it changed the image of the sand particles. And then the whole earth would be soaked.
“Array Munni, Uth Saari Bheeg Jaigee” someone would nudge me up caringly. I would get up reluctantly, dusting my frock and looking down my skinny legs. We wore frocks of cotton and muslin in those days with simple “ Rabbar Ki Chappal”. So comfortable, cool and I think “Chic”. No Shalwars, no head scarves, no Muslim, no Christian, no Sunni, no Shia, no Hindu, no Yahudi. But then , during all my years in Karachi I have seen only one Pakistani Yahudi and that too when I was a young doctor 26 years of age. There were Bahais, Iranis and I thought he was a Bahai, but my older gentleman friend told me he was a Jew. But then in my childhood we were just all kids and our families were just families, and we just ate and played and fought with “Umroods and Badams”, fell sick, lighted “Phuljharees”, sang Latamangeshkar songs, watched Popeye cartoons and stared at “Suraj Girhan “ through carefully soot blackened mirrors.
This was Karachi when I was a kid, in Nazimabad number “Chaar”, an amazing neighborhood.
Right across my house was Salma’s house. A nice white house with many rooms at many levels. The garage they had rented out to a shopkeeper, Ramzan. I remember buying some toffees and balloons from him to sell to other kids as an investment frequently.
“tan, tan tan” a ringing from the Kulfi walla would lure us. Creamy, fat cool, cool Kulfi. And if it were mango season, which would be in Monsoon rains, this was double treat. We never fell sick, never had diarrhea in those days. And when some child fell sick, it was a sad and so concern demanding site. But then we had doctor Mrs. Durdana in Nazimabad number Chaar. She was my school doctor too. The only time I dreaded a doctor was when I received a small pox inoculation on my deltoid on upper arm. I still have the mark. Not the kids today. They don’tneed small pox inoculation and they are so “Nakhraloo”.
Not us. There were kids from Lalookhet, Gujjan nala, and other hutment areas in those days. They would come to my school an we would study together, play together and enjoy the rain together. No boys, no girls. No sexuality in the forbidden sort of way. Just my childhood. And the precious, precious rain.