Letters

DECLINE OF A ONCE-VIBRANT CITY

I found Gerald Zarr’s article on Karachi and Sindh (“A River Runs Through It,” IC, April 2005) very interesting. I was born and raised in Karachi. Yes, the city was peaceful and booming in the 1970s and mid-1980s. However, its change of character for the worse since then is not correctly analyzed.

The power conflict in Afghanistan is a large contributory factor. Also, the apathy of the rulers of Pakistan towards the woes of Karachi is responsible as well. True, the initial problem was between ethnic Sindhis and Mohajirs. That was settled. It is the failure of the central government, which allowed so many problems to fester, that has resulted in the once-vibrant, happy city to turn lawless.

The central government draws 65 percent of its tax revenues from Karachi, but gives nothing in return. Not only that, there is a massive influx of immigrants from other provinces, which is putting extreme pressure on city services like water, sewage and sanitation, and power. There is no relief either from the central government or other provincial governments, who simply pass on their headaches to Karachi and the Sindh province. The rise of the mullahs and the sectarian problems are not the creation of Sindh, either. It’s not the original inhabitants of Sindh, but rather the immigrants from other provinces, who are the cause of the illness.

Javaid Haider, via the Internet

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KARACHI STILL ROCKS

I was being scared away by people like the author of “A River Runs Through It” (IC, April 2005), Gerald Zarr, that taking Anglo-American friends to Karachi is risky. Not convinced, I took a bunch of them to Karachi last February. We visited the Abdullah Shah Mazar in Clifton, and explored every alley in the Bohri Bazzar, roamed around the small, neatly arranged bungalows in Gulshan Iqbal and the apartment jungle in Johar, paid homage at the tomb of Quaid-e-Azam, and frequently ate at Lal Qila, Malir fields, and several food shops near Clifton until late night almost the entire week we were there.

The people in the tiny places were so excited to meet American friends and asked them many questions. Otherwise, it looks like a city where people mind their business and don’t care if women wear hijab, sari, or skirts, and what their skin color is. Men are clad in the common shalwar-kameez, many in regular jeans, and some in suits.

You have to see it to believe it.

Of course, any major Third-World metropolis has its own problems. In the case of Karachi, the U.S. State Department may see a problem. On the contrary Malaysians, West Asians, Africans, Afghans, and some Sikhs too, roam the streets of Karachi streets, buying and selling their wares. The shopping areas from Bunder Road, to lighthouse, down to Saddar, to newer malls near Gulshans, are full and bustling. We rode the rickshas in SITE area on broken roads and buggies with weak horses near the downtown, and enjoyed the trip.

Every individual in Karachi appears to have a cell phone and banks are rolling in money. Pakistanis are trapped in mortgages and two car payments, just like the Americans. The poor quarters of Layari, Malir, and Lalookhet seemed contended, sleep late at night, and wake up early to fight their way to work, eager to increase their income. They look forward to the new expressways because the number of people, traffic, and the condition of streets are out of control in Karachi.

I believe some writers intentionally paint a gloomy picture (in sweet words) so that foreign business would take less interest in Karachi.

Arif Kazmi, via the Internet

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KARACHI KID LOVES HIS HOMETOWN

Geral Zarr’s article (“A River Runs Through It,” IC, April 2005) brought a twinkle to my eyes. This is the Karachi I remember from my teenage years in the 1970s, when my high school buddies and I would think nothing of going out to walk along the Clifton sea wall at 2 in the morning without any fear, or hop on a bike and go for an ice-cream cone. This is a city that could have been a Singapore or even a Bahrain or Dubai.

Times have changed, though; I cannot imagine my kids doing the same things here in supposedly safe Arizona. But life still goes on. People adjust and do what they have to. During the Lebanese civil war in Beirut, I remember reading about people water skiing barely 500 yards away from a raging firefight. Similarly, in my trips back to Karachi, I find that the locals have adapted to the violence. People still lead happy lives there, go to school, get married, have kids, and appreciate the finer things. Not having lived in Karachi since 1976, I am not sure who should shoulder the blame for its decline, but this Karachi kid still loves his hometown, warts and all.

Asim Ameer, via the Internet

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ENCOURAGE SECOND-GENERATION ARTISTS

India’s cultural heritage is indeed alive and kicking in California, where we see not just the daughters of great dance teachers continuing with dance and thus keeping this heritage alive, but especially, when dance students go beyond the arangetram (debut performance) and make their own contributions in the highly competitive world of dance.

I have noticed that the community at large supports programs presented by famous and established artists, but when artists of the new generation perform, they do not get any notice. Some of these young artists have embraced these traditional dance forms with their hearts and souls and are trying some very innovative ideas in their presentations. It is our duty to encourage these brave attempts.

Nirupama Vaidyanthan’s article “Living Heritage” (IC, April 2005) is a wonderful tribute to the great gurus who have given so much to our youngsters here. But the survival of this cultural heritage doesn’t have to depend on new waves of immigration. Instead, we should look to the second generation of Indian Americans who will carry the torch into the future.

I contend that unless we actively support this new generation of artists, this cultural heritage will not stand much of a chance to flourish and may even discourage newcomers who may want to follow in their footsteps. That would indeed be a shame!

Mangala Tata, Moorpark, Calif.

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NO BALONEY

Sarita Sarvate’s “The Politics of Deep Throat” (IC, April 2005) is the best article I’ve ever read on pornography and confirms what so-called sexual freedom is about. Thanks for cutting through the baloney.

Geraldine Levy, New York, N.Y.

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MELODIOUS TUNES IN GOWARIKER FLICK

In his review of Swades (IC, April 2005) I was struck by Aniruddh Chawda’s comment that the movie lacks notable music. He grants that the song “yunhi chala chal rahi” is catchy. The song “yeh tara, voh tara” in the film has one of the most melodious tunes that I have heard in Hindi film songs in a long time. This song, based on the raga Vallaj, has excellent lyrics too (composed by Javed Akthar), especially where the singer challenges, “kyun na bane milke ham dhaara” (Why don’t we join forces and make a stream?) I like the fact that the songs in Gowariker’s movies are germane to the theme, well choreographed and cinematographed, and thought-provoking, rather than the inane body gyrations and vulgar dance sequences that are the bane of most modern Hindi movies.

Prakash Narayan, Fremont, Calif.

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SPEAK YOUR MIND!

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