In the confines of my city
Written by Hira Rasool
There are places in the city where it is difficult to breathe. Places where the air is dense, where walls close in on you. Places where people were unkind. Places where we felt violated, rather places where we were violated. Places which overpowered us and put our strength to test. But there are also places which leave us reveling in awe and wonder, places that spark sweet nostalgia - places which provide comfort.
Somehow while being on the streets, engaging with the city and uncovering its truth I made new discoveries, the city helped me heal and build a relationship with it that I deeply value. These adventures and chance engagements made me feel safe in the hands of my city.
I discovered a presence within which was confident, overtaking the cowardice surroundings and situations thrust upon my existence. Under the lignum tree in my neighborhood park with a picnic spread over the green, gleaming grass. At the tea house in the old city where after a day-long exploration by foot we found ourselves taking a moment to breathe, over a hot cup of tea. The roof top at a loved one’s residence where we lay under the naked sky, discussing the everyday. Evenings by the mighty waters; I find multiple tales of warmth co-existing in the city.
I grew up in this city, it is all I know. But there are times when I feel challenged, I feel overwhelmed with instances that surface one after another in the city that I seemingly know. Then there are moments where we reconcile. These moments are precious:
July 2021, it was 9:00 pm at night when I found myself stranded in the heart of the city. With a dying battery and failed attempts at booking an Uber, I resorted to taking a rickshaw ride back home. Zooming through Shahra-e-Faisal at an hour when the wind is pleasant and the night shines its brightest, I felt a spark between the city and myself. There was an attempt at resolution, a true confession. The blaring engine of the three-wheeler roared and muffled the noise around me, and within me. Cars and motorbikes drove past me with scaling intensity. The city revealed itself little by little as we exchanged our woes. And I made the decision to give my relationship to it another thought. Another shot.
It is a powerful feeling. To be able to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and find myself present in the moment I choose to. This instant, I am away from the city at the foothills of the mountains. Ribbon and string lights hanging off the tree under which I sipped a warm cup of coffee. It is freezing cold. The colour of the night is deep and the pathways lined with trees along the curving road lead me to my destination. It is also a curse. For when I want to escape, it is difficult.
I am in a state of conflict, I am also at a crossroads. My loyalty to the city is in question as I wonder if I should trek back to the mountains if they will have me. Or embark on a journey to faraway lands, only if they invite me. In the now, I have my city with all its shortcomings and beautiful attempts at reconciliation.
I’ve made the decision to be free flowing; I foresee a clearing in sight.
About the author
Hira is an architect and an interdisciplinary practitioner. She works as a Project Architect at Open Door Design Studio and as an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Department of Visual Studies, University of Karachi where she teaches third year Design Studio.
In parallel, her art practice lies at the intercises between narratives of people, places and a recollection of memories. Discovering diverse cultures, landscapes, communities and travel continue to inspire and inform her work.