I remember I was 7 or 8 and it was 1980-something when mad rains hit Karachi. Of course they hit in 1992 and in 2006 also, and a couple fo other years also, but this years monsoon rains reminded me of that rain in the 80’s.
This past weekend in Karachi was what people would term nightmarish on many levels. After a hugely muggy summer, with heat levels reaching a new claustrophobic high, the heavens literally poured their hearts out, and despite the fact that rain in Karachi almost always means a celebratory air – atleasts initially- it also usually doesnt take much for disaster to strike. Predictably, amidst the thankfully dropping temperatures and madly sluicing rain sheets, the light went. Right across the city, everything was dark and people scurried faster trying to get to their homes, fearing the storm would pick up and the roads would be a mess. Rightly so. The last few years of rains have proved that each year we come to the same conclusion about the city being unable to handle rain,and somehow the relevant authorities havent understood that that mean ssomething needs to be done about it now. Saturdays are busy as it is, with families out and about doing their weekly chores because its the prelude to a weekend, hence multiplying the numbers of people who got caught in the sudden showers.
Back then we lived in phase one, and our house was nestled amidst other houses and manymany other plots, all ready to be built upon. That meant that when the rains hit, these plots would get transformed into huge pools of stagnant water, which sounds disgusting but to me, summering in karachi after the clean sterile environment of abu dhabi, it was fascinating. I loved the pools filled with the mossy green water that would just stand for weeks and weeks. That summer when the rains hit, we were all sleeping, tired out from our daily cousin fun. I remember being jolted awake by my mom, who was frantically throwing some outfits on the bed. I sat up blearily and was amazed to see water surrounding the bed. Atleast 2 feet of water gently lapping the sides of my bed. I still remember being half delighted when my dad waded into the room and told me to get on his back. Leaving the room we saw that several feet of water invaded most of what was a fashionably deep set house- further bringing in more ater from the street. Waving to other cousins on other grownups backs, we made our way to our neighbours house. Haji Sahab of the opulent house fame, was more than happy to give us several of his many many rooms and we all sat yapping excitedly about how much fun it was to be up so late and spending the night together in such circumstances. I still remember the musty musty smell of books a couple of days later when my grandfathers prized library was laid out to dry on the roof, painstakingly carried by everyone along with the heavy wet carpets. Some of the pages are still curled up today, a testament to that flood. It took many weeks to get everything dry and back to normal- and the wet hairy odour hung in the air for long- despite air freshners candles and what not. I suppose for the grown ups it couldnt have been much fun to find their belonging floating past them while they tried to save the kids but for us kids, potining out random floating bins and baskets was an exercise in fun fun fun.
I had forgotten about that flood really, pushed it to some archives in my head, but Nadi’s thorough excitement and joy at all the chaos of the last 2 days of rain brought it all back and made the whole process of having to mop up buckets of water and plug up windows with towels a lot more bearable. As he ran around shouting “Allah mian pani basss, Allah mian basss pani baasss” we couldnt help but laugh at his utter delight at being allowed to splash in the “yucky pani” and his joy at having to trudge around like nomads to different houses staying for the night, waiting for our electricity to come back and the rainwater in our room to dry up. For him, it was like an endless bout of holiday magic starring all his favourite people in the best possible situation- one involving water! It brought back in technicolour how liberating it can be to be powerless to do anything really but manage ourselves for that moment and really no one lives in the moment more than children. Yes this last weekend was a bit of a nightmare for us Karachiites, bijlee-less, rain-ful, displaced, floating and then coming back to an upside down house, but somehow, thankfully, something in the way Nadi saw this whole thing, and made us see this whole thing, kept the perspective in its right place.