Day 7 – Literary Festival
Today I finally woke at a reasonable time and found at 09.30 Muna was already here and wondering if I would like to accompany her to the Karachi literary festival, where she excitedly said I would meet lots of feminist and free thinking woman like me! It was being held in a Hotel and we had to go through the usual security checks. There are armed guards at every establishment, but anywhere where groups gather they also search your bags and you go through metal detectors. This event also had armed guards looking down on us from the hotel rooftops. Far from making me feel safe it hits home about the daily dangers.
Once inside however it was awash with exhibition stands and stage/seating areas inside and out. I was astounded at the amount of presentations going on. There were many scholars running sessions and talking about all sorts of issues, but the one that caught our attention was “laughter, the best medicine”. The speakers were 2 Pakistani men and one Indian, who were stand-up comics. They were here to discuss the place of satire comedy in the life of a Muslim. I have never seen such a packed audience. The auditorium had a seating capacity of more than some west end shows, and still people packed in to stand.
The place was in uproar with laughter and I was frustrated that I didn’t understand more. One joke went along this line: “I was robbed a while ago in Karachi. I was sitting in my car when a man approached and held his gun to the window, he was saying “mobile phone arsehole mobile phone arsehole”, but quite honestly I didn’t know if he wanted to rob me or have a relationship with me.”
This was from a comedian named Saad Haroon. He was asked by the audience how he knew he was successful and he answered that the death threats on YouTube gave him great confidence about that! You must watch this parody to Pretty Woman he performed called “Burka woman”; he certainly had me laughing!
And so it was home once again through the dirty, decaying mess that is Karachi. We stopped for some fruit from one of the many street sellers and once again I was approached by a dirty shoeless boy of around 7 begging for money. The 100 Rupees I gave him will feed him for a week as long as a corrupt policeman or other adults doesn’t take it from him.
It breaks my heart to see all the beggars, but the ones that hurt the most are the deformed and maimed who beg at the cars that are stopped in traffic. Muna opened the window an inch at one such stop and handed a note out of the window to a man who had a bony useless arm hanging from his body. There is no welfare or help for such people. Seeing such extreme sides to society is so hard and so confusing. The roads are full of expensive, nice cars and yet overflowing with disease ridden rubbish, debris and filth. Most houses and buildings are decaying and grey on barren, sandy building site landscapes, and then there are odd new ornate building with high walls and surrounded by greenery and beautiful bougainvillea.
A conversation with Dr Azra left me heartbroken about the plight of pregnant women in Pakistan. Whilst around 50% of babies are born at home they are not the happy, planned, safe home births of the West; they are women who cannot access health care. With one of the highest infant and maternal death rates worldwide, the poorest, the least healthy and those far away from any clinics of hospitals have no choice but to suffer in silence. “Half the babies die” said Azra and my stomach felt heavy with the lack of power to change such a situation. “However good job they can’t all come to the hospitals, because we couldn’t cope if they did” she added. My thoughts at that moment were how lucky we were to be able to get health care free at the point of delivery in the UK.
Once back home we found Sofia having had a nesting day of sorting out all her baby clothes in preparation for her baby daughter, who we all hope will put in an appearance soon. We are still trying to source Entonox, but strangely enough in a country where you can purchase just about any drug over the counter it is proving quite difficult. The gas companies will only sell it to clinics and hospitals. I have emailed Dr Azra, who is going to try and pull a few strings, so fingers crossed.
The day is drawing to a close now, I enjoy this part of the day; when I go to my room get into bed, eat one of the caramel eggs I bought with me from the UK (my comfort food) and watch Game Of Thrones on my lap top. I have 5 eggs left….is that a sign of how many days before this baby finally puts in an appearance?