Words Arwa J.
Header Credits Shireen A. (@artistrybyshireen)
This place was the haunt of her childhood where she had been taken when she had no sense of a place except her parent’s arms. This place so close to home yet worlds away from the narrow streets full of traffic and smoke. An island of tranquility in the chaos of the city that is called Karachi. Though, on Sunday afternoons, her place could hardly be called serene, filled as it was with rowdy families and screaming children. Street hawkers selling all sorts of fare could be found all over the park, offering everything from steaming buttery and crispy masala papad to dripping ice-cream cones and warm cold drinks. Gastronomic delights to be looked forward to every Sunday.
The playground was the basic one found in every public park, but here the rides were special. The high bars had helped her practice swinging for her role as a monkey in a school play, only to have weeks of practice go down the drain when the organizers failed to realize that you cannot hang monkey rings from the roof of a tent! The slides here had ripped many of her dresses as she descended from the top. The swings had made her think if she could swing high enough she could touch the sky! They were all silent witnesses to the tears from the falls, bumps and scrapes gained over the years. The sprawling gardens were home to picnics and impromptu cricket games. The gravel walkways were perfect for cycling and skating and, later, as she entered her teens, for long contemplative walks.
The real enchantment began when her first love came to this place. She could now delight her heart with the presence of her love, holding hands and roaming around. It was as if a table of delights had been spread out before her whence she could eat her heart’s fill. And the best part, she could come and exchange love every Sunday for a mere 10rs! She could be excused for being unfaithful on the grounds that she shared a room with her parents, where there was only one bookshelf. At the time, it was reserved for school books, to which she could not form an attachment and it was better to exchange them so she could read new ones!
This place of hers closed down for a while due to reasons she resented but had no control over. After it reopened she came here again with the husband her parents had chosen for her. It was in this place among the trees that they fell in love wandering along the same walkways that had seen her grow up. It was here she brought her children introducing them to the same pleasures she had experienced. As she sat by her husband’s side watching them play, she knew she wanted to sit there doing the same with her grandchildren.
One Sunday she told them to go without her as she had a slight fever all day. She hurriedly dressed them and sent them off with instructions to be back in time for dinner. The next thing she remembered was being taken to their graves, supported by her brothers. A fanatic had destroyed her world for a cause he himself did not understand.
A year later she found herself in her place looking up at a tall red and yellow gothic sandstone building that stood at the centre of this place of hers. It had been built in honor of Sir Henry Bartle Frere in the 1860’s and housed an art gallery. Spending almost 30 years of her life around this place, the sad fact was that she had never once been inside. As she stood there gazing at the structure she found a glimmer of light in a dark and dreary future. She still had places to see, people to meet, and a life to live. The people who had tried to terrorize her had not succeeded in their aim. She had her place and no one could take that away from her.
This is beautiful and haunting