Sunday, March 1, 2009

Karachi Thoughts

So I took 5 days off work and flew to Karachi for my mom's birthday last week. Etihad Airways is amazing and the seats are wide and comfy... I wish the flight were longer so I could've finished watching the movie... but oh well :P

The plane was full of people who were being deported... mostly laborers going home with nothing but the stained, torn clothes on their back and papers stamped with the words "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT" in red. I felt really bad for them... the government gets them into the country, uses them for three years and when the world faces an economic downturn they give them the boot.

I had a really interesting conversation about prostitution rings in the UAE with an Emirati dude. He was surprisingly open-minded, very educated and spoke decent English :) Basically, the government endorses prostitution in order to keep crime rates low... Because the majority of the population consists of single expatriate men (or married men with families back in their home country), they invite prostitutes to keep them happy, otherwise they would start attacking random women and that would be really bad for the country's "image" as a safe, crime-free haven. BUT, as soon as someone contracts HIV or Hepatitis, they're given a one-way ticket back to their home country (no medical or health care.. no sirree). Cold-blooded? Absolutely.

While I was home, I wondered what it would be like to move back permanently. On the surface, it seems like nothing's changed... except Pakistani fashion and boy, do the ladies keep up! Everyone was wearing long kameezes with capris (minus the dupatta), with layered, shoulder-length hair blow-dried to perfection and held in place with a touch of hairspray. Whatever happened to individuality?

The power situation has gone from bad to worse... much much worse and I don't see any signs of improvement in the foreseeable future. We had power blackouts for an average of 5 hours each days and in some areas, it averages 8 hours daily. Thankfully, we can afford generators and UPS but the majority of the population can't. Our maid's daughter is getting married and her village isn't even connected to the grid. She was sad that she'd dress up and get her make-up done and people woudn't even be able to see her looking lovely on her special day...

I met up with old friends from high school. Everyone is either working or engaged or married. One of my friends is working as a customer sales rep. at HSBC. She's making 12,000 rupees per month! That's less than $200 and isn't even enough to cover fuel costs! Apparently, everyone at HSBC is sleeping with someone else's husband or wife, and male customers frequently hand her their business cards with messages like, "thank you for providing me help. i like u very much, maybe v can be friends?" scrawled across the back :P Another friend is now an "underground" rockstar and performs at gigs in Dunkin Donuts, Cafe Coffee Day and Nandos... Back when we talked about career choices, "rockstar" wasn't an option... Progressive? I guess.

The nation's political conscience is dead... but they love discussing politics... at birthdays, weddings, funerals and family get-togethers. The atmosphere is pretty depressing but I've heard it always gets worse before it gets better. I'm guessing pretty soon, there'll be a revolution of sorts and maybe then we can pick up the pieces and make a fresh start.


  1. Etihad has wide, comfortable seats? Well, you obviously didn't fly Coral... :P

    It does feel great to steal even just a few days back home, doesn't it? I was born here in Abu Dhabi (grew up in Karach), and this place has practically been a second home.. but it doesn't quite have the same feeling as Karachi! :) I'm heading home for a couple days just today, so it felt great to read this post!

  2. lol... they upgraded me to pearl :)
    I only moved here for work and it's been quite an experience... And yes, it felt great to be home (nothing beats Karachi)! Have a fun trip!