When in a car, I’ve always been the type of passenger who has her seat reclined back, enjoying the conversation and the planes in the sky- barely concerned about the road and other cars etc. When I do sit up, I sit up to notice the liscence plates, de-coding and unscrambling them.
In Karachi – well that’s another story. Here are a few stories about roads in karachi.
– Every pedestrian is suicidal. Seriously. They will walk in the same direction as the cars are moving. Not only that, they wil not look back to see if a car is coming. If that’s not crazy enough, they will walk while occupying half the lane – esp if the road has speeding cars! They walk even slower as the car gets closer! Burqa aunties in black will choose the darkest road to walk on at night and will DEFINITELY cross when you are close. Then, when they have already crossed half way, they will decide u are too close and will run back to where they started from.
– Beggars are smart! They have cellphones. If you pay one, you will be swarmed. Imran decided to pay one while we were eating and next thing we knew we had atleast 15 around us. At Eid namaz, Imran’s uncle had female beggars, pushing and putting their hands into his pocket. One beggar prayed as follows: “Allah aap ko purradode ga” (May Allah give you a prado(SUV) !). Err, Imran asked him if he could pray for a ferrari instead.
– Its reallly really really hard to look into the eyes of a beggar. I’m overtaken by guilt. Some are sooooo old and they make me wonder what situation makes them beg in such humiliation. They’re desperate for medication, food, blankets. The situation is soooo sad. I’ve seen entire families sleeping on roadsides. Then another day i saw the kids eating from the pile of garbage across from them. I have no sympathy for the healthy, young ones. But the really, really old ones, got me. I was calculating that the price I paid for 3 bags of diaper is what my mom pays her cleaning lady. When our family of 14 went out to eat, we paid our gatekeeper’s salary of a month, 4 times over. (if that doesnt make u grateful for ur food, what does?)
– There are no stop signs. The trick is to get there first and fast. Whoever honks first or flashes their lights first, gets to go first!
– Traffic lights have timers on them. They let you know how long you have to put on ur mascara before the car behind you starts to honk!
– Lanes? What lanes? People just drive as they please. cars literally just glide in and out of lanes. A road intended for 3 cars, can accomodate upto 5!! Its like lego blocks packed really tightly during traffic hours. Otherwise, people just drive all over the road and might just start drifting into your lane. Once we were driving and two cars ahead of us(one on the left and the other on the right) started drifting into our lane with no indicators etc whatsoever. Watching the road in karachi is sucidal.. i can almost faint with how close the water tankers etc get to you.
– Horns. Pakistanis really know how to use them. 10 seconds before the light turns green, someone in a vehicle 5 cars beind you will start honking! Dude, i’m not budging till the light goes green! People dont use indicators, they honk to tell people who are drifting into their lane that they are getting too close to them.
– At random times, you will find people in your lane driving in the opposite direction – yup, coming at you and honking at YOU as though you’re the wrong one..
– You will definitely find driving back at home really boring once u get back. No honks to honk, no crazy over taking, and no trying to lego yourself between lanes.