KARACHI: Three young residents of Lyari are working on a website to showcase their neighbourhood’s “ignored talent and unsung heroes” who they believe don’t find space amid the news about gang warfare and Rangers-led operations, it emerged on Monday.

With a website titled hamaralyari.com, which is barely a few months old, Dubai-based Syed Nadir Bokhari, 28, along with his two former students Shehzad Yaqoob, 19, and Mohammad Obais, 21, decided to dedicate some space for professionals and amateurs from the area in the fields of entertainment, education, sports, health and journalism.

Born and brought up in Lyari’s Singhu Lane and Jhatpat Market areas, the trio have separate roles in website development.

Like Yaqoob, Obais is studying at the moment and comes up with the names of people to be interviewed, while Bokhari, who is the co-founder of the project, is currently working in Dubai apart from handling the website.

The profiles and stories, says Yaqoob, will be narrated in a written or digital form by different writers, activists and academics from the area familiar with an individual’s journey. For instance, senior activist, writer and retired government servant from the neighbourhood, Ramazan Baloch, was roped in to write about an outstanding student from the area, Maryam Askani, in March. The website has a number of posts about social workers, students and musicians.

Back to roots

“Such profiles, written by people who are also looked at with a lot of respect and reverence, [are] a way to go back to our roots; to the contribution of the area in various fields of literature, art and classical music, sports and education, to remind people that we are much more than being a statistic,” says Shahzad while speaking to Dawn.

A second-year student at the S.M. Science College, Shehzad, 19, says the project was initiated after an incident at his college. “Some of my classmates on being told that I’m from Singhu Lane mocked me in front of the entire class. I felt insulted and shared the incident with Syed Nadir who is also my neighbour and teacher,” narrates Shahzad. Soon, both of them involved Obais and asked him to make a list of achievers from the area. “It ended up being a long list,” says Shahzad. Working without an office at present, the three meet up at a youth cafe in Baghdadi or at a local restaurant depending on their convenience.

Violent surroundings

It’s not that the surrounding violence and stories of young men falling prey to gangs did not get to him. Speaking of the eight-day police operation in April 2012, Shahzad says it “made me feel helpless. The roads were mostly blocked. The incessant [gunfire], which began from early in the morning till late at night, could not be ignored by anyone. We didn’t see [much] violence in our part of the town but heard everything; horrible stories from relatives and friends living in other parts of Lyari.”

Elaborating further, he says the violence could have done two things. “It could have made me pity our situation or take action to present the lives of hundreds of people who went to their schools, colleges and offices day after day despite the ensuing fear and uncertainty. This project is dedicated to all the people of Lyari who held on,” he added.

Now, the trio is trying to rope in Abid Brohi, the rapper from Kalakot, who shot to fame recently. “One of our friends from the neighbourhood is trying to get his interview for us. We are expecting it to be great since his rap song went viral and he (Abid) is immensely loved,” adds Shahzad.

Recently, Shahzad gave a tour of Lyari to his classmates adding that “it was quite an experience for them. They ended up liking the area and some of them visit me when they are near.”

He believes that the initiative is a beginning towards creating an understanding among the citizens of Karachi. “We live in the same city and yet it takes us years to visit another area. I think it’s high time we get out of the stereotypes we have created about each other,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2017

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