In the book “The Dark”, John Herbert describes an evil plague affecting a city in which a darkness haunts and infects the minds of people who live there, turning them to madness and inconceivably horrid acts. Such a similar plague, a diametric contradiction to the light for which the city was onetime renowned, seems to have infected Karachi.
It was only the other day that yet another gunshot patient was brought to the ER in a critical condition, another hapless victim to the chaos created by our city’s unique brew of lawlessness and poverty. Despite being a private hospital and thus technically shielded from such cases, the bulk of these being directed to public hospitals (and let’s not go into their chances of survival there) the number of cases coming in that have been shot at during a mobile or cash mugging is alarming. Indeed, as night falls the wait for another victim begins, and hardly a 4am goes by that another does not join the ranks of the suffering, or those who have, for better or worse, gone beyond all suffering.
It would seem as though the city really has fallen victim to a kind of madness, though to say so would be simplifying the situation extremely. Despite the similarities to fictional evil plagues, the reasons behind these crimes are all too real. Easy cash, weapon availability, and little risk of capture or imprisonment are a lethal mix. Yet no one seems to be doing much about them. Indeed, if both reported statistics and anecdotal evidence have any truth to them, crimes are on the rise.
Karachiites suffer enough from ethnic, sectarian and political violence. In recent years, we’ve the dubious honour of several terrorists attacks as well. Yet this odd epidemic, that affects both the labourer wending his way home with his hard earned salary, and the businessman with his expensive car, stopped by motorcyclists at a signal crossing, is an added strain on an already insecure population. And no end to it seems in sight.
In the last few weeks, after seeing case after case of gunshot/mugging survivors in the ER and in surgery rounds, as well witnessing as the grieving, fainting, sobbing relatives of those who were brought in but couldn’t make it; after hearing tale upon tale from friends and family of close encounters and untimely deaths – it has really brought home to me the difficulty of living in a city that is so fraught with senseless violence. I recall a picture of the swollen, bloodstained face of the last patient I saw brought in, and hear again the words of my consultant, spoken half in jest and half in earnest seriousness “Bas jaldi jaldi parhlo bachay, aur phir is mulk say Niklo. (get done with your studies quickly my child, and then get out of here.)”
This city has twenty million inhabitants. I have the luxury of escaping maybe, but do they?
See you guys soon.