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Karachi: Viewing things from above

In a place where you stand out like a sore thumb, like Karachi, it can often be a little difficult to really absorb the atmosphere and everything around you in a natural setting where people’s attention and everyday activities are often interrupted at your expense. I love to then watch for some time, the goings on of the world below me as I sit and watch from a balcony above, trying to understand the world of chaos below.

Karachi ticks to its own rhythm. Laughter erupts as a bus rounds the corner a little too fast causing the passengers sitting on top to get a nasty collision with the low hanging branches of a tree. They emerge on the other side laughing and ripping the torn branches from their faces, sharing smiles amongst strangers.

Illegal street vendors watch the street day by day as they lounge on the couches they are trying to sell to passers-by. A motorcycle tows behind him a beggar on his cart. A child skips a step as he carries a newly purchased balloon. An elderly man returns from the shops carrying a small parcel of food. Young boys turn their heads as a group of giggly girls ride by in a rickshaw.

The traffic moves about in chaos, yet still remains in ironic order. Families of six balance on motorcycles with ease and normality.  Rickshaws weave in and out of traffic as they whisk passengers about Karachi. Older men ride their bicycles, extending their legs and moving with comparative grace to those motor vehicles around them. Pedestrians dodge the chaos as they try to cross the street. Beggars approach cars whilst they are stopped trying to earn some money and appeal to the charity of others, all the while whilst watching the traffic to ensure they are not hit by traffic.

  Taxi to the Light Side

A woman below hangs out her washing on the balcony, the patterns and vibrant colours of her shalwar kameez adding life to the grey apartment. A child takes large steps trying to keep up with his father as they hold hands and cross the road. Stray dogs walk timidly trying to avoid traffic whilst scrounging for food. Power lines twist and tangle hanging low creating a cluttered world above those below. Birds chirp and fly from the trees watching below for un-watched food.

And then just as I thought I was out of sight of those below a face looks up. A brilliant smile. A connection between two different worlds.

Hannah Sutton is currently in Pakistan, working with War Against Rape, a NGO focused on creating rape free societies.

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