Letter from Karachi

Alia Ahmed at The Hudson Review:

Today I am in Saddar, the former colonial center, clamorous and poetically falling to bits. Pakistan is a particularly loud country (“Well, yes,” a famous doctor once countered, rolling his eyes, “there are people here,” yet I stand by it), and Saddar is no different. Once a pedestrian zone crisscrossed by tram lines, it is now clogged by technicolor buses and auto-rickshaws, dusty vans, beat-up cars, or the tinted 4 x 4 of a Very Important Person, complete with armed bodyguards limply hanging off the side like party streamers. Traffic cops, elegant in starched white uniforms, stand bravely amidst the chaos to direct it with waving arms and screeching whistles. Saddar is home to the Karachi Press Club, the Cotton Exchange, the City Railway Station and, of course, the experiment in human ingenuity that is the parking lot outside the National Bank. Cars are parked in tight rows, squeezed into whatever available space, no sensible way to vacate. A smattering of biryani restaurants lines the far end of the lot. Dilawar (a young Pushtun with green eyes, a migrant from the cold north) hollers for the other “valets” and, consolidating their manpower, lift stationary cars out of the way, hooting encouragement, so I can reverse.

more here.