Karachi: An aspect of Social Change


Shahid and Humaira were married six years ago. Shahid is an engineer and works in a small firm. Humaira teaches at a school near their place of residence. Shahid’s father was a teacher in a government high school. He is now retired. His mother and father are first cousins. His mother did not receive a formal education but she can read and write. Humaira’s father is an accountant in a large hardware retail outlet and Humaira’s mother is educated till middle school. Neither Shahid’s nor Humaira’s mother have ever worked or contributed financially to household expenses. Humaira however, has done her graduation, and even before her marriage she was teaching at a junior school in her neighbourhood.

Humaira’s brother and Shahid were class fellows. Shahid met Humaira a few times when he went to visit his friend. He liked her and asked her if she would agree to marry him and she said that she would if her parents had no objection. Shahid’s father proposed formally and after much discussion and time, the proposal was accepted in spite of the fact that Humaira’s father did not want his daughter to be married outside his community and Shahid’s family was certainly outside it. Humaira moved in with Shahid’s family who lived in a small flat near New Challi. She had to give up her job since the school where she taught was too far away from their place of residence. It was cramped in the flat although they had a small space to themselves. Finally, Humaira found a job in a nearby school and as a result the couple could afford to hire an apartment next to that of Shahid’s parents. Shahid’s and Humaira’s fathers both contributed a loan to the young couple to help them pay a year’s advance for their apartment. Two years after their marriage, Humaira had a son who is now four years old and studies at the school in which she teaches. Parts of the conversation I had with the couple are given below.

Me      :           Could you have managed to get a flat without help from your parents?

Shahid:           It would not have been possible. We tried all options before asking our parents. In this country only rich people can own homes. This is a big problem. It worries us for the future.

Me      :           Do you come here often?

Shahid:           Yes, every Sunday. It is important for us and for our son.

Me      :           Why is it important?

Humaira:        Sunday is important for us. All the other six days we work. I look after the house. Cook. Clean. There are always little problems like no water, blocked drains, shopping to do since we do not have a fridge. These little things are very energy consuming. Then waiting for Shahid. When he is late I get worried. Traveling by motorbike is dangerous and there is so much violence in Karachi.  

Me      :           What does Sunday have to do with this?

Humaira:        On Sunday I do not cook or clean. Shahid gets halwa puri for breakfast and we bring food with us and eat it at Sea Wall on Sundays. Zahid (their son) enjoys the outing as well. We look forward to Sunday.

Me      :           What else do you do for entertainment? 

Shahid:           Nothing much. Sometimes we eat out or watch TV. Sometimes we get the VCR from my friend and watch an Indian film.

Me      :           Where do you eat out?

Shahid:           McDonald’s is what we prefer and Zahid enjoys it as well. We have also visited Alladin Park and a couple of times we have taken him to the zoo. 

Humaira:        McDonald’s and Alladin Park are far too expensive but then every thing is. To have a good life in Karachi you need money and by working for others you seldom earn enough.

Me      :           What do you need money for?

Shahid:           Well. We need a house. Nothing big. A small flat that we can call our own. I need a car. Right now I have a motorcycle and all three ride on it. But we intend to have one more child so we will need a car. We need a fridge and a VCR. The smaller things we will be able to get with time but the bigger things? No way. It is not possible. And then we would like our children to be educated. Good education is far too expensive.     

Me:                 What would you like to see in your city that could overcome your problems?

Shahid:           Credit for buying a place to live, a clean environment, cheap education and a good transport system. Like in other countries. Environment is important. We live in dirt, broken roads full of sewage and our apartments are also full of sewage and garbage. We live like animals. Even this place is dirty. This Beach could be so much better but no one is concerned. There should be places like museums (as in other countries) where children can learn. These things are important. 

Humaira:        Also what is important is respect. We need to be respected. Wherever you go like the post office, the bank to pay your bills, you are insulted. Every government servant insults you. They are bad mannered and the police is the worst. Often they trouble us when we are together on the motorbike. This is no way to live.

Me      :           You mention other countries. Have you ever considered going abroad?

Shahid:           Many times. But we do not have the means. Also, we do not wish to leave our parents. They are getting old. But going abroad would solve some problems and would guarantee a better life for our kids. Sometimes we think that that better life without a sense of belonging would perhaps not be better. We are undecided. 

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