I am at a police station in Karachi.
It is a hot sunny afternoon in April. I am draped in a big black chaadar. I do that usually but specially also because I am at a police station. My car is parked in the street behind the main gate.
I get inside the gate and walk through the courtyard where neem trees are a plenty. The doors, the signs, the placards….they are all rustic, and also rusted. Piercing eyes are around me. I drape the chaadar a bit more tightly, put on my “I am a journalist so don’t mess with me” expression and find my way into the reporting room.
There are queues of people. Sitting and standing. This is a busy area. Cacophony. Women, mostly in abayas, are on chairs, as men in Pakistan have their chivalry still alive (looking at the remnants of silver linings) so they let “ladies” sit on chairs. I am made to sit. When my turn comes, I sit across the officers. One of them looks straight out of that old tv play which revolved around Pakistani police – his expressions are soft. The other one is scrutinizing me. Their stance changes considerably when I tell them I am a journalist. They answer some of my questions but then go abruptly quiet as the elderly officer with the soft face gestures them to stay calm, and say only baray sahab (senior officer) can answer my queries and he is unavailable. A younger police officer insists I give him my phone number. It is against my better judgment so I change the subject. He persists with a cheeky smile and tries to start a conversation. The elderly officer with the soft face chides him and says “bibi abhi aap jaaiye” (Lady, you should go now).
I am again at a police station in Karachi.
This time it is a hot May evening. I want to get a feel of the station in the evening when there is less rush.
The old mosaic floors have layers of grime. An officer is sitting, copying down reports in bad Urdu handwriting, on yellowish newsprint pages and using an Eagle fountain pen. He licks his finger every time he has to turn the pages of a thick journal that is titled “Criminal Records”. His fingers are stained. On the wooden table, there is a cup of tea. The tea has long been drunk. Dried crusts of milk and sugar are attracting flies. Old fans are whirring on the ceiling noisily. Mosquitoes attack every living thing in sight. The only bright thing in sight in the otherwise almost somber room is the police officer’s badge – red and blue.
The officer is nice. Respectful. Less hassled than the ones I had encountered last time. Also less cheeky. I ask him about a number of criminal offences, their prevalence rate in our areas, and that are the criminals actually ever charged? He says “Ooper ooper wala hai, magar yahan to ooper baray log hain. Woh phone ghuma dete hain to phir hum kya karein. Humaray to haath bandhay huay hain na bibi.” (Above is God. But here, above us are the influential people. If we get a call from a hot shot, what can we do? Our hands are tied).
I am home. Thinking. Blogging. Recollecting memories of the sights and sounds of police stations I visited. I don’t wanna go there again.
PS: This blog has no point that I am trying to prove. It’s a pointless rant. Simple.