Where the heart is.
By Wayne Croning
I left Karachi over 25 years ago, yet I think of my city of birth on a daily basis. Most of my stories have had sad endings, so what I will now share will be more focused on good
and positive memories of a city I love.
Lately, I have had numerous dreams of flying; not on a plane, but by myself and for some reason the flight path is almost always over Karachi. Trying to find my last home in Nursery always seems impossible. I see similar sights; Drigh Road, the Nursery Market, the gundah nallah (open drain) that
flows (still does?) right by our old home. But never can find the home itself. I have flown over the beaches, been to Clifton, Saddar, my old school (St. Paul’s) and everything appears changed. This is probably because I spend a lot of time on our Karachi page, or on google maps. Google maps is a good way of looking at the city from above; lots has changed. I cannot recognize some of the places
now. The numerous flyovers and high rise buildings only adds to my confusion. I meet old friends, have conversations, and some days I wake up from the dream/s very disappointed: Because it was all just a dream!
Or the wholesale vegetable market, situated near Gulshan-e-Iqbal was an amazing place; messy, yes, but amazing. We would do our shopping there on the rare occasion. Once David, his brother and myself were given money and a list and headed out on a cool morning in late summer. Three of us got on his Vespa, it was 6 .00 a.m., still dark and the dim light from the scooter’s headlight barely lit up the road. We headed from Model School, then along Kashmir Road, and just after the jail, got to our destination. Recent rains had turned the muddy paths here to slush. We had on rubber
chapals (slippers) so even if these got dirty, it was easy to clean later.
We strolled through the covered area of the market; men sat around, selling fresh potatoes, onions, tomatoes, green chillies, etc. David’s brother bargained with some of the men. We ended up with a small sack of potatoes , ten kilos of onions (the red skin type), tomatoes, green chillies. Unable to bring all this back on the scooter, David and I hired a rickshaw and carried the bulk of the purchases.
At home, we sorted out everything into storage boxes; I took home my share, which was not even a third of everything bought. Our feet and the scooter’s tires matched well. Slimy black mud! Many years later, came the Mungal Bazaar (Tuesday Bazaar) and so our trips to Subzi Mundi came
to an end.
I became really obsessed with bicycles and bicycle racing when I met up with Steve, an old friend who now has an animal hospital in Toronto. He did have a clinic in Karachi as well, perhaps you may know him.
Steve was into bicycle racing. One of his friends, Kassim, who worked for KPT was on the National team. I still had my red bike that I had got from Iran in 1979, but it was not a racer. Steve had expensive equipment, lightweight bike frames, lightweight rims and tires and could be seen zipping around Drigh Road, leather helmet, shoe clips, etc. He finally encouraged me to get a racer style bike and took me to his bike mechanic, Gulzar who had a little street repair shop off Bunder road. We asked him if he knew of anyone selling a used racer.
“Not at the moment, no.” he replied, as he worked on truing a bicycle rim. I will keep my eyes open. But if you can’t wait, why don’t you check out the Taiwanese racers, sold right there?” He pointed to the bicycle market nearby.
The next day, I returned and had a closer look at the Taiwanese made racers. They looked fine.
They were all the same kind; ten speed, narrow rims and tires, curved handle bars and narrow seat. The shopkeeper said he would assemble one right away if I was interested. Two colours to choose from; red or blue. I chose blue. It cost Rs. 1,700.
There was only one way I was going to take it home. Ride it all the way! What a hair-raising event this was: Bustling traffic; buses, cars, motorcycles, people. Add to this, thick, black diesel smoke, choking rickshaw fumes and the traffic noise, made for a long and tiring ride home to Nursery. Steve came over and looked over the bike; it weighed about 26 lbs but was a good starter bike. Not wanting to wait too long, we both headed out to the Clifton sea wall on our bikes that
evening. Riding through the heart of Defence, we rode up steep roads, and through posh neighbourhoods. Once we got to the sea wall, we stopped to rest. My legs felt like rubber!
We trained like this for months. Steve encouraged me to enter one of the local races, but I gave up on that. I did however, enter a local parish race organised by Christ the King church and happy to say, I came 2nd (photos attached). Steve’s friend Kassim had also feverishly been training for
the Tour de Sindh. Unfortunately, on the first day of the race, he fell off his bicycle and had hurt his knees really bad. We bought him back to our home in Nursery and Steve managed to patch him up. But that was the end of the race for him.
I rarely get on my bike now, it is not the same anymore. But I still dream of those days, dream of a Karachi I once knew, and will always love.
thanks for reading, wayne