The tour started on a back street close to the Metropole, took us to the Masonic Lodge, the Kabotar roundabout in front of the Sind High Courts, Zoroastrian Dar-e-Mehr, and Empress Market. We disturbed the pigeons at their feast, waved at the Fire Temple priest who blew a kiss in response, and drank fresh coconut juice standing in the square used in 1857 by the British to literally blow sepoys, who dared revolt against the Raj, to smithereens.
I found myself fighting tears and not just for the sepoys, but for Karachi. I have never seen any place dirtier. Piles of garbage lined the roadside. Electric wires hung in ugly bunches and ran like cobwebs creating a mesh that hung over the streets. The British left behind pavements, but these were now broken and filthy. Sewage ran along the sides. Emaciated cats prowled along hoping to surprise a bird. The few old colonial buildings of Saddar were caked in layers of dirt, green shutters hung limply, and despite the delicately carved woodwork and chiselled sandstone facades, it required concentrated imagination to picture the buildings as they once were. The entire scene was a study in neglect and as we all know, neglect is abuse.
Instead of crying, I focused on the youthful enthusiasm of the other bus passengers. Everyone on board seemed friendly and the tour guides were exceptionally courteous and charming.
We stopped for parathas and omelettes and my son and I indulged our book addiction at the bookstore next to the eatery.
Fed and energy levels restored, we visited Pakistan Chowk, a public space carefully renovated and furnished with benches boasting the names of famous Karachiites. Next, Jinnah House, Merewether Clock Tower, and finally the most impressive restoration of all, Karachi Port Trust. Our guides filled us in on the relevant history throughout and were always on hand to answer questions.
The second half of the tour rekindled hope. Because while so much has been already lost, and so much continues to decay, the citizens of this city have taken upon themselves to clean, restore, and maintain much of its history.
Super Savari helps by bringing people to see landmarks that they, in many cases, otherwise would not even be aware of. Thank you, Super Savari. Perhaps, there is hope for a better future.
Best of all, you get to ride for part of the journey perched on top of the brightly decorated bus and are rewarded with PIDC paans. Things may get you down, but with the wind in your face and a paan to chew on, the only place to go from here, is up. And they were no armed guns accompanying the bus!