Meet my friend Farooq Soomro.. now popularly known as The Karachi Walla. Farooq came to Karachi for the first time from Sukkur in 1999 when he enrolled as a student in FAST-National University Karachi. That is when I met him… he was always the quiet, sweet and shy guy who everyone lovingly started calling Bha (which means brother in Sindhi language).
Farooq did his Bachelors and Masters in Computer Sciences and later moved to Lahore to do his MBA from LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences). Meanwhile, I got married and moved to Doha and we lost touch(except for being connected on Facebook but not actually communicating as much… you all know what I mean :)) and I had no idea what he was upto, not even about his blog.
One day my sister (who lives in USA), told me about this AMAZING blog she came across and she kept raving about the impressive stuff this guy was doing and documenting about the heritage, culture , diversity, landmarks (and what not!) of Karachi. So I went to check out the blog and was pleasantly surprised because I actually knew the Karachi Walla… it was Bha!
When I spoke to him he told me that about 6 years ago, he started documenting the hidden, unexplored gems of Karachi as a hobby and started a blog called The Karachi Walla. Although he was born and brought up in Sukkur, he has gradually fallen in love with Karachi – the city that embraced him as his own. The blog is his personal approach to the city, documenting it as he sees it through his lens.
The Karachi Walla has gained immense popularity and praise for his work and has been featured in The Guardian and The Herald. (WOW! just simply WOW!). Farooq also writes for Dawn and you can view his work published in Dawn here (You will find some very interesting articles about other places he has visited and documented – in and outside Pakistan).This time when I was in Karachi, I asked him that I wanted to do a feature on him. So we first arranged to meet at Road Side Cafe (I had never been there before) in Karachi – my husband wanted to meet him too! (He loves Karachi and loves his blog). To me, the cafe felt like the revival of the coffee house culture, where writers and poets would sit for hours to work and discuss their creative ideas. Farooq is a regular there and he mostly writes his blogs from there over chai and some dhaga bun kababs (they are seriously awesome, a MUST try!!). The cafe is so aesthetically done with murals of TV and movie artists, singers, writers, poets, scientists, social workers etc., people who are the assets and pride of our country. And he very proudly showed me his mural painted on the wall! (Woohooo Bha! Super proud of him!)
So we did a quick catch up on what happened after University. He told me he moved to the Middle East for a few years for work, but didn’t like it there and hence moved back to Karachi. He is now working in Karachi and leading the Market Research team of a firm. This is what he does during the week, however on the weekends he becomes the Karachi Walla. He takes his camera and explores the city, he now calls home.. Karachi.
With street crimes like mobile snatching being extremely common in Karachi, I asked him if he was ever mugged with his camera and to my surprise he said No.. NEVER in the those areas. However, he has now switched from a standard DSLR to a Mirrorless camera only because people used to get intimidated and often mistook him for a news reporter/media person.
Karachi is such a diverse city in terms of ethnicity and religions.. yet it embraces them all. My husband and Bha got into the discussion whether there are any ethnic or religious fault lines in Karachi. According to him, although the city may be populated with ethnic groups living in certain areas of the city, there are no ethnic or religious fault lines. Everyone who comes to Karachi, is here to work and make a living, so there may be a fault line in the socio economic plane.
As he puts it,
The diversity makes Karachi beautiful. The diversity makes Karachi painful.
Due to the proximity to the port, the old Karachi area remains the hub of businesses. Farooq told us that the old buildings in this part of the city are being used by shopkeepers as warehouses who don’t really care if they are deteriorating.. for them they are still serving the purpose. So he is on a mission to visit and document these old places before they erode completely. But recently World bank has agreed to a $100 Million financing to restore Karachi’s old city areas from Pakistan Chowk to Empress Market (Read the news published in Dawn here). And guess who is excited?? the Karachi Walla! (now I just hope that the money is put to the right use!)
If you have seen the Karachi Walla’s blog, you would know that there is a section on his blog, where he features the personal spaces of people. So I told him I want to do a feature on his personal space! And then one day I went with my camera and invaded his apartment! And being super sweet (as usual), not only did he let me in but showed me around his apartment and his unique collections of Vinyl records, books and antique radios with all his enthusiasm!
I knew he is an art lover and passionate about antiques, but boy oh boy, was I in for a treat or what!! His apartment is a jackpot for antique lovers!
Browse through the album below to have a look at his personal space..
And if you haven’t already checked his blog.. You should check it out NOW! I can guarantee you will fall in love!
My next agenda – A tour of Karachi with him.. (Bha, next time!)