A New Day

Dear Friends and Family,

I awoke this morning to a surprise: I had to push-start my uncle’s truck to get to the gym. Luckily, I got my cousin to help. We got the truck going and arrived at the gym to find, fortunately, that it was open. I expected this to be the most eventful part of my day. I was wrong.

I was jarred awake from my late-morning nap by the ringing of the telephone. It was my aunt, and she sounded agitated. Stores were shutting down again, she informed me, and there was gunfire in parts of the city. Apparently another politician — this time a representative of the MQM, the most popular party in Karachi — had been assassinated. This was bad news. As per Pakistani politics, when the party whose stronghold you’re in goes on strike, the place shuts down immediately and can stay shut for weeks. An aunt and I rushed to the nearby market to stock up on supplies and phone cards. Word had spread fast, and people were out in full force to replenish their supplies after three days of being holed up. Gas stations were closed again. Stores were shutting down even as we arrived at the market. News came eventually that the assassination was just a rumor; the politician spoke on live television to confirm that he was indeed alive. But the damage had been done. The news of his death was akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. People’s nerves are shot, and they are prone to panicking at the slightest hint of trouble. There were reports that a bus was burned and that two rioters were shot dead in another part of the city. We got what we needed after checking out a few stores and returned home.

I ventured out with a cousin later in the day and though most stores were still closed, the panic seemed to have dissipated. Kids were out on the streets playing cricket. There were more cars on the roads, even a few buses. More Rangers appear to be patrolling the city, and the police presence has increased significantly as well.

Thus Karachi ushers in the New Year. A cacophony of gunshots exploded five minutes prior to midnight. It sounded like they came from every street. There were a few fireworks as well, but the gunshots far outnumbered them. It’s been a one-of-a-kind New Year’s for me, one that I will not soon forget.

I wish you a happy, memorable, and peaceful New Year. God bless.

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