KARACHI: It is raining for the last four or five hours. I have noticed that for the first few hours of downpour they call it abr-i-rahmat. After that, the TV programme presenters start using the adjective abr-i-zahmat for rain.
I am sitting under the roof of the extended verandah on the terrace of my house in DHA, Karachi. I am neither a bureaucrat, nor an army officer, nor a rich businessman, but like other middle class residents of the upscale neighborhood of the City of Lights I have no problem.
The DHA and Cantonment Board do not supply water to my house; so I buy two or three tankers every month. There is regular load shedding and not able to afford a big generator, I have two UPSs to run the ceiling fan and a couple of lights. Friends and relations living in other areas of the city must be envying my good fortune to be living in posh DHA!
Being an old man who has seen and enjoyed a thousand barsats (rainy seasons), I can’t help being nostalgic when it rains. My school days were spent in Chittagong in the former East Pakistan where sometimes it rained incessantly for not days but weeks. We walked to school gamboling and being happy in the rain. The dark clouds over the lush green hills and the sound of music from afar never failed to make me ecstatic.
Here in Karachi, the sapling of the banyan tree I planted outside my house some years ago has turned into a huge tree where a pair of koels and many crows have made their home. Bulbuls, mynas, bee-eaters and a number of other little birds are regular visitors to the tree. Dark clouds appear from the North-West and over the banyan tree and I wish I could share the heavenly sight with you.
Sitting on a charpoy on the terrace this morning, ecstasy became homogenous enjoyment when the three grandchildren joined me and we moved in the open to bathe in the rain. The leaves of the banyan tree sparkled and the croton plants in the little garden downstairs glistened as raindrops fell on them.
By noon the vacant plot diagonally opposite our house had turned into a lake that created a flood-like situation all around. Soon we were in panic when the deluge mixed with gutter water entered the garage and poured into the underground water tank. Grandson Salman rushed to the roof and checked the overhead water tank. No problem. Enough water to last for two days. Things will come to normal by then.
By the evening panic was replaced by deep anxiety when Salman’s father was stuck in his office in Korangi Creek. Three hours later we saw him wading homeward through the filth laden, fast flowing water on Saba Avenue. On the way he had barely missed an open manhole at Khayaban-e-Sehar.
In late evening electricity was disconnected by the Karachi Electric and we sat in the dark, gossiped and joked, not forgetting to sympathise with the millions of fellow citizens marooned at Nagan Chowrangi, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, North Karachi, etc. With television and cellphone no more a source of social distancing, we — perhaps for the first time in years — enjoyed each other’s company, chatted and reminisced the good old days. ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’ brought the joy of reading a book in candlelight.
Friday, 28th August 2020
No heavy rains today. Only drizzle. I and the other grandson are singing Lata’s ‘O’Sajna barkha bahar aai’. We would have preferred raag Malhar but can’t play the CD. No news of friends and relations, how they are coping with the aftermath of the deluge.
Saturday, 29th August 2020
The hawker did not deliver the newspaper. Television and cellphone, too, are silent, keeping me in the dark about the happenings — which is a welcoming change from the daily cacophony of information and verbal brawls. Just a faint realisation of the intensity of misery caused to fellow citizens by the rain.
Sunday, 30th August 2020
No rains today. But we cannot step out of the house. All the Khayabans and Streets are flooded and the roads are in shambles. The Pathan rag-picker informs that even big bungalows on 2000 and 1000 sq. yds belonging to the high and mighty, including those who have ruled, and are ruling, over the DHA are flooded with filth and gutter water. It brings a strange sense of satisfaction — and hope. I feel like humming “Hum dekhen ge, lazim hai ke hum bhi dekhen ge!
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2020
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