An undulating mass of people, vehicles and bloated shopping bags throngs the street, every square inch of it. We're all looking outside the windows of our car, our eyes sweeping for a potential parking spot. No luck. There's no space at all.

"We shouldn't have come this early."

I check the digital display of the clock on the dashboard. It's 1:30 AM.

My parents stare wide-eyed at all the activity going on around us. I hear someone mutter the word deewanapan. I sigh inwardly. After living in Karachi for so long, I wonder how anyone could still be amazed by this. This is Karachi. The city that never sleeps.

We find a place to park in some random gali and then proceed to pick our way through the muddy, post-rain streets as we walk towards the restaurant (read: dhaaba). It's a shabby place. Only men lounge about on the ground floor. There's also some tables upstairs, 'for families only.' We make our way up a flight of marble steps. The din of people and cutlery meets my ears. There's no space to breathe. It's 2 AM now. A family of about seven suddenly gets up from their table, done with their food. We rush to grab their seats.

The table isn't exactly a pleasant sight. It's littered with used napkins, spilled water, bits of bread and the occasional squeezed lemon. A waiter appears and hurriedly sweeps the stuff aside with a dirty wet rag. We take our seats, careful not to rest our elbows on the table and order our food. Another waiter brings out a silver pitcher full of water and some glasses. We look at each other and order mineral water; small bottles so nobody has to use the glasses. The food arrives almost instantly. The steaming hot nihari and the crispy naan fresh out of the tandoor are delicious. Of course it's not easy eating while making sure nothing touches the table.

I look about the room. Most people sit comfortably cross-legged, with their slippers on the floor and their plates in their laps. I feel out of place with my bright green Converse shoes and my thoughts forming in English.

4 comments:

Cluster said...

Wish I had been there :))))

Arslan Saeed said...

I feel out of place in my bright green Converse shoes and my thoughts forming in English.

I see I am not the only one.

Alec Lindsay said...

Your writing is vivid and immediate. I admire your ability. I think the outsider's position in art and culture is an important one, so I'd say don't be too sad about it. A xx

Alpha Za said...

Been there, done that.

You don't even want to know how they clean the plate and utensils.

Wouldnt so much as fail a health inspection as much as fail it so miserably that they wouldnt be able to get a health inspector to come within a 100 feet of the place.

Well written.

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