Do not disturb! I'm riding a reverie in a fanciful Karachi

If you ask me, mobility, infrastructure, people, and security somehow never fail to surprise me

Zehra Batool

I consider it a blessing to have an entire apartment to myself and live alone, especially during these times when you can be a victim of a terrible crime without even setting foot outside. But not in Karachi, of course. Here, you can leave your lodgings unlocked. You are safe as can be. The other day I woke up hungry and decided to walk to a nearby diner for lunch. As I was heading down the streets, I realised I had not locked my apartment. I remember having read somewhere that when you are not home, someone is in your house taking all of your things. It really doesn't matter if you locked your door. I have little to worry about in this crime-free town though.

I routinely take strolls around the block and see many women walking freely and fearlessly down the street. Can you possibly fathom living somewhere where you had to continuously fear being mugged or encountering male leering? Sounds like a nightmare. Perhaps we ought to be appreciative of the Sindh Police for not lazing around all day and giving us a constant sense of freedom and safety.

Do not disturb! Im riding a reverie in a fanciful Karachi

While there is no denying that everything is peachy keen here, I will admit that living in a place with such stringent law and order can be oppressive at times. Yes, the cleanliness and lush greenery are lovely, but I don't want to go for a trash can whenever I want to toss some litter outdoors. Why can't I just throw it on the ground and go about my business like the free-willed human being that I am? Is that too much to ask for? Perhaps some candy wrappers would add a little panache and character to the spotless streets. The Rs5,000 littering fine nevertheless has a strong enough grip on me to make me contribute to keeping the city painfully clean.

Unlike other cities, Karachi does not have a boatload of trash lying around on the streets; in fact, there are litter bins almost everywhere. And they are not merely there for show — whether voluntarily or not, they are actually used. That is what sets us Karachiites apart from the rest of the country. Even though I sometimes wish we could, we do not shamelessly shrug off our social obligations. We adhere to the same sanitary rules in public places as we do at home, rather than disregarding them when we step outside. Into the bargain, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) takes its responsibility quite seriously when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of the city 24/7. The metropolis is thoroughly scrubbed clean before you awaken.

Do not disturb! Im riding a reverie in a fanciful Karachi

Speaking of waking up, I often get up at 6am, make myself a little breakfast, and go for a short run around the block. At this time, I typically see the street cleaners packing up and departing. After my morning run, I head to work and since my office is only four blocks away, I prefer walking. I never really felt the need for a car. But on occasions when I do not feel like walking, I cycle to work. In recent years, Karachi has gained recognition for its cycling culture. Bystanders do not however stop whatever they are doing to gawk at you for riding a bicycle as a woman or start filming you without your consent to post on social media, but I have heard that it happens in other less progressive parts of the world.

One of the perks of living in a walkable city like Karachi is that you can either walk or cycle to places or simply take the tram to get to far-flung places. You may already be aware of this, but public transportation is not prejudicially viewed in this part of the country. You won’t see passengers on the roofs of the buses or hanging off its sides. And I mean it when I say that there could be no safer place for travelling by public transport than Karachi. All buses and trams are equipped with CCTV cameras and voice alerts regarding sexual harassment. Meanwhile, street lighting makes travelling alone safer, whether on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car, because you won't find a single dimly lit street at night. Leaving the house alone at night or falling asleep on public transportation does not make me paranoid.

Do not disturb! Im riding a reverie in a fanciful Karachi

Personally, I believe that the finest part about living in Karachi is the beautiful bicycle paths, subsidised public transportation — especially the tram, and a neighbourhood where people live, work, and travel without depending on cars. Who in this economy can afford petrol anyway? You will barely notice any traffic congestion. Besides providing safe pedestrian surroundings, the metropolis is committed to providing open space for public life, including metro stations, bus stops, tourist spots, public restrooms, and parks. To top it off, these places are completely female-friendly.

Nearly every other day there is a new project the city is launching to make life easier for its people. For instance, only last week I was returning from Downtown Karachi when I saw an air ambulance landing at the accident scene. I had heard a lot about it but never witnessed so first-hand. This is the first city in Pakistan to take the commendable initiative of offering an air ambulance service. Could it be any more ultra-modern and thoughtful?

Do not disturb! Im riding a reverie in a fanciful Karachi

Downtown Karachi is a huge mall in Saddar, in the heart of the city. With its well-functioning air conditioning, the mall features shopping, leisure, and entertainment. It has nearly 120 stores on five levels, as well as hypermarkets, cinemas, and a dedicated entertainment zone for children. You can find flagship stores, fashion boutiques, and eateries along a pedestrian street that runs the length of Downtown. With a blend of big international brands and smaller local brands, the ambience of the town centre is not only authentic but also remains true to the local heritage and traditions.

On weekends, I prefer to hang out with my friends in Downtown Karachi or at the beach. It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that these beaches are paradise. Each day machines clean and maintains these beaches, and many of them have weekends designated for families. Lifeguards are always on duty. There are showers, restrooms, and changing areas. No, they do not charge you to use either of these areas, in case you were wondering. More so, not so surprisingly, it is common for people to leave their bags, wallets, and cell phones on their beach chairs while swimming. This is the level of security and safety people feel in this city, can you imagine? If you ask me, mobility, infrastructure, people, and security somehow never fail to surprise me. At this rate, if you compare Islamabad to Karachi, the latter is more deserving of becoming Pakistan's capital. Don't you think? All that Karachi is missing is some snow.

Illustrations by Aisha Nabi/

The author is an ambitious journalist with a knack for words who writes for several publications while studying marketing.