Early morning. The sunshine is cold but warm. The streets are slightly foggy……not heavily laden like Lahore’s…..not piercingly clear like Quetta. Just slightly foggy. KESC has forgotten to shut off the street lights. A few people on bikes are whizzing past in worn out woolen caps, wearing flimsy jackets or without-sleeves sweaters. Some are even, shockingly, in just a tee shirt, somehow surviving. I am driving past the Defence Golf Club. At the side of the road, a group of six labourers is sitting, basking in the sun, sharing a joke as a chaai wala on a cycle hands them tiny cups of tea. As my car moves towards Sea View, the breathtaking beach of Karachi steals my heart yet again. Early in the morning, it is not crowded. I park the car, with a take-away chaai in a disposable cup from the infamous Café Clifton. A lone camel trudges along in a melancholy manner, looking bored. A number of people are taking a walk or a run along the beach. The breeze against my face is cold…..bearably cold….and beautiful. In a mysterious way, no other city I have experienced changes in terms of what it feels and looks like in winter, compared to Karachi. Winters a la Karachi – short, unpredictable and utterly beautiful.
Good things come in small packages. Just like the winters in Karachi. They last hardly a month, which is why Karachiites celebrate and relish them. Ever after is boring, as are the almost never-ending winters in other cities. Karachi winters show you a jhalak, have you pining for more, and stay in your system.
Good things are also spontaneous and unpredictable. Just like the winters in Karachi. For on one day, we might write off winters and say winter is over and the springy mid-summer feel is back in our city, but the very next day, or hour, the “Quetta winds” may lash back at you. You know that from the sudden crackle of dryness on your skin and the parched feeling in your throat in the middle of the night.
Good things are also politically correct – they are anti-extremism. Which is why I love Karachi’s winters. Moderate. Bearable. Agreeable. Comfortable. You can use your winter wardrobe, shawls and light sweaters, but only in Karachi will you find a woman surviving in a lawn ka jora with a shawl in December. You can wear your boots and coat shoes, but you can also survive in your sandals from Charles & Keith or studded chappals from Zamzama. And we Karachiites are so cute…..those of us who have a decent winter wardrobe will wear it even if it’s 15 degrees outside. Whatever we do, we do it in style.
The new food haven of Pakistan in terms of variety (with the debatable dethroning of Lahore as THE food-lovers’ paradise), winter brings a new zing to the culinary experience of Karachi. You will see inexpensive munchies like roasted peanuts and steamed shaqarkandi and karari gajjak and dry fruits. And you will see thailaas of coffee and soap. Hot nihari and gola kababs are eaten in a jiffy, lest the ghee on top freezes to a crust. A rise in the sales of paye on meat shops is seen. Barbeque is being done on terraces. Halwaas make life a sensory joy. Dinners and socializing reaches a crescendo, which means more food in every possible way. Breakfasts, brunches, lunches, high-teas, dinners…..and the in-between and after dinner coffee sessions, with finger food on the side. Bliss!
But perhaps the best part of winters in Karachi is that people, in addition to the temperature, seem to cool down. Faces on the street somehow smile more, as does the face looking at me in the mirror. Less agitated, less heated are the temperaments. It goes without saying that winters are Karachi’s honeymoon period. The mercury will climb higher in the months to come. We all know it. That’s the reality. But when have reality checks ever stopped anyone from enjoying the moment? So sip that coffee, drape that shawl tight, bask in the soft wintry sunshine and enjoy it while it lasts.