I took this picture from my friend Sipte’s balcony. I like to think of Karachi this way.
Sipte had just rented a gorgeous 1940’s art deco apartment overlooking Frere Hall (that steepled building to the left). This was about a week before I left Karachi, and the monsoon was rolling in. It was one of the few days, in all my time there, that I ever saw the white sky break into clouds. Black kites encircle the city constantly, and people feed them raw meat off the bridges. It’s a prayer and offering to these beautiful, ominous creatures. To me, the kites are the mascots of Karachi, or maybe a metaphor for the city. These are the birds of prey that Parsis rely upon to eat the corpses they leave atop the Tower of Silence.
Sipte’s apartment is on a busy street, but late at night, the traffic thins. American chain hotels, the Marriot and the Sheraton, rise above the park, and Karachi seems completely anonymous. It’s like a prototype or idea of a city, rather than any specific city. I felt anonymous too, this evening, and disconnected from the specifics of my situation, my history and my emotions. When I was little, I used to get this same sensation from black and white movies. It’s a sense of abandonment, related to but entirely more elegant than the sense of abandonment displayed in a good rock song. It’s a delicious, eerie kind of place, that Karachi city.