New Year’s Eve (or NYE as it is popularly referred to) seems to be all the rage in Karachi these days. Surprisingly, this was never the case a couple of decades ago. My dad, or his dad before him, never went out to the Clifton beach partying his way into the new year, welcoming it with fire-power (note that I didn’t use the word ‘fireworks’ here) and dancing with some downright cheesy music blaring out of the bystanders’ cars, a mash of discordant symphonies coupled by grotesquely gyrating bodies.
It’s December 31, 2010, and I’m sitting in my room YouTubing for some videos. Suddenly, I hear shots being fired in the distance; lots and lots of shots. I instinctively duck down, asking my wife to do the same, but she’s relaxed, unfazed, without a single frown-line on her forehead. She smiles surreptitiously, points at the wall-clock and says, “Relax, honey. It’s going to be 2011 soon; seems like the party’s started a bit early this year”. I breathe out a partial sigh of relief and can’t stop myself from thinking about the consequences, the price that some innocents might end up paying because of a few irresponsible idiots. More firing follows and for the next hour or so, thats all I can hear, my ears trying (and miserably failing) to pinpoint the origins of this mindless debauchery. Never in a million years could I imagine one of my family members to be a victim of this New Year insanity, as I was about to find out the very next day. The story that follows is in the victim’s (i.e. Hassan’s) own words and has been modified slightly (as he was unconscious through part of the incident).
“Since it was my last weekend of freedom, the last couple of school-free days, I decided to join my friends outside for some late-night chit-chat. It was almost 11:30 p.m., me speeding down the stairs, my dad yelling after me to take my jacket. After contemplating for a split-second, I flew back upstairs, grabbed my winter-gear and whispered a silent thank-you to my dad once I stepped outside. It was 9 degrees centigrade outside, or at least that’s what I had heard on the TV earlier that evening, and that is extreme by Karachi standards. My friends and I headed towards the corner of the street, our usual hangout, and started engaging in some boy-banter. The discussion soon steered towards the computer games we had played, Monday blues, upcoming exams and the teachers we hated. After about 10 minutes, we heard the first gun-shots being fired, signalling the arrival of the fast approaching New Year. A few fireworks lit up the night sky, but it was the noise of the gun-shots that dominated our senses. The firing intensified as time snaked its way towards 2011. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my scalp, as if something was burning through me, trying to making its way to my brain. Two little streams of blood trickled down my forehead and the next thing I remember is blacking out completely, falling on the ground in a heap. At first, my friends thought I was joking, then spotting the blood, they started screaming. Thankfully for me, the hospital was only a short distance from where I live, so my friends had me there in no time. I was still unconscious, my breathing shallow and labored. The doctor in the ER rushed up to me, examined the wound and started throwing questions at my friends. What? How? When? Confused and afraid, they answered as best as they could. After a few minutes, the doctor picked up a pair of tweezers and extracted a bullet out of my scalp. He dressed up my wound as best as he could, all the while consoling my friends. I came to about 10 minutes later, my brain about to blow out of my skull. I told the doctor I was in a lot of pain and he mercifully gave me the magic drug (what would we do without pain-killers?). According to the doctor, the bullet must have been shot into the sky and on its way back, its trajectory had slowed it down considerably before it landed on my head, failing to go further on into the skull. Had this not been the case, it would have been a through-and-through and I would have definitely died. With a prescription in one hand, I managed to walk out of the hospital, a bit groggy and disoriented but otherwise alright, the dent in my scalp a constant reminder of what could have been.”
Firing a gun isn’t fun when you are at the receiving end, a deal you didn’t sign-up for, an innocent bystander, caught in the cross-fire of mindless self-indulgent individuals trying to prove some point that I fail to comprehend. Yet this continues to happen year after year after year, a soiree of imbeciles hell-bent on painting the earth red with the blood of the innocent. How can we expect the New Year to be peaceful when all we really do is welcome it with violence? Think about the 70+ people (including INFANTS, for crying out loud) who were either dead or seriously injured in Karachi; sadly, the same story was repeated throughout the country. Not to mention the disregard for people being disturbed by these senseless acts; think about the elderly, the sick, the children, and the people who have to wake up early no matter what. Is this a celebration or an act of barbarianism? Go figure.
Note: Here’s a link to the video of the coverage done by a Pakistani news channel.