Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some pics from central london

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Initial thoughts

People are always on the move in London. Sometimes I think the city is one giant movie set with a hidden director instructing countless extras, in all manner of outfits, to walk in every random direction as though they were on their way somewhere important. This is London's curse and great gift. It means that late nights in the city are generally quite safe. It's common to see a line of people at a bus stop waiting to go home around midnight. It also means that you can remain anonymous quite easily. The paradoxical problem with this situation is that London's constant activity provides no respite for those seeking peace, privacy or intimacy. Londoners can spot a fresh visitor a mile away, but they dare not say anything about it. The custom in London is to not bother other people, lest they bother you. Of course, most Londoners are foreigners, but there seems to be some certain period of time you must spend in the city before you are accepted as a local. I suspect this period is the time it takes you to no longer pull out the A-Z on every street corner.

Another thing that has stood out for me is the amount of casualised labour. The shops, the streets, the underground, are all filled with people in uniforms or waving placards or handing out leaflets. Yes, it is true that London is an easy city to find a job, and having a job is a good thing. But it also means it is an easy city in which to exploit people who are desperate to make ends meet.

Until around a few days ago I felt totally bewildered in London. There was one moment on only my third day here when, having lost my friends in a large crowd around the main entrance to Oxford Circus station and confronted by a sea of unknown faces, I began breathing heavily and looking to the heavans. Since then I have started to soak in the atmosphere much better. Overall I have to say I'm enjoying the London vibe. I love the fact that each building in the city centre is different with a history equally unique. No two people dress the same, and many are not afraid to kit themselves out in outfits which would be considered absurd in another city (like the young man I saw yesterday wearing camo cargo pants with matching shoes and his calvin klein underpants exposed, and an outrageously long, spiked hairdo).

There is plenty to explore here, and most of the city streets have something worth checking out. London may not be an immediately accepting city. But hidden in the armpits of a cold, all-too-grey exterior is a warmth and texture that is starting to fascinate me.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Notting Hill

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Asserting sovereignty

Tonight I landed in London Heathrow Airport with a view to spending the next few years in London town. Once my bags have been unpacked, the logistical merry-go-round well and truly riden, and everything in between conquered, I'll start blogging on a more regular basis.

It's (will soon be) time to be heard.

Did you know...?

Ever since the Danish cartoons drama, Pakistan has banned a number of blog sites, including blogger. The claimed reason for this is to stifle anti-Muslim sentiment. Um, it must just be a coincidence that the restriction also stifles some of the most important portals for educated Pakistanis to express their views (ie dissent). Since I've been in Pakistan I've been using the excellent website PKBlog to circumvent the ban. Good work boys!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Buffet dinner Karachi style

Tonight I went to Lal Qila buffet restaurant, probably the biggest and best buffet restaurant I've ever been to. I'm been told that Lal Qila isn't even the biggest buffet restaurant around!

A personal highlight was the free paan, yum yum!! I had the coconut flavour, tastey stuff.

No paan for you!

Some action snaps

Clifton near the old Schon Circle

Mum on the balcony

Sadar - down town Karachi where some of the best markets are. You can get anything from software to sofas here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Karachi, oh Karachi

I've returned to one of the cities of my ancestors - Karachi. Karachi is a sprawling third world metropolis, the trading capital and major port city of Pakistan. I'm only here for a few days visiting my mum and sister so I've been trying to keep myself out of mischief.

I've visited Pakistan several times throughout my life, so it isn't a land of much mystery to me. Despite that, it never seizes to amaze me just how intense the place is. Life is difficult here, and nothing is simple. You have to be 'switched on' all the time - be it while dodging the traffic (there aren't many footpaths to speak of, so pedestrians share the road with vehicles) or dodging family friends with single daughters.

Life here is a spicy mix of constant challenges and it makes mere existence, just getting through your day in one piece, something of an achievement. For example the power cuts out for a few hours every third or so day. If you're stuck in the lift when this happens, tough... unless the building you're in happens to have a generator. Water doesn't flow out of the taps for most of the day. Toilet humour takes on frightening new dimensions. And don't even get me started on the personal hygene front. In fact for the last few days my alarm clock has been the sound of water gushing out of the tap around 6am after the water tank has had its daily refill. In this environment basic daily rituals become elaborate and draining.

For me Pakistan engenders a love/hate response. I've always admired the every day resilience of the people on the street. The taxi driver who stands at attention all day on the street corner, waiting for his sole customer to finish her latest shopping spree. My mother, and her unwillingness to surrender to the law-of-the-jungle driver chaos on the road.

And then there is the other side. The fact that no one ever quite means what they say. The family politics you have to be ever so careful of. The poverty, the heart breaking, soul destroying, imagination-stretching poverty that is impossible to ignore no matter how remote or opulent a lifestyle you choose to lead.

Karachi is an odyssey in itself I must explore more thoroughly some time in the future.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Farewell to Australia for the foreseeable future

Photos available here.