Driving around Karachi, you notice some interesting things.
For example, during the daytime, no one respects the marked laneways on the road. They just drive wherever they want. If someone is overtaking you, the beep their horn. There is a constant drone of horns.
It never stops.
There is also this random behaviour where some traffic light signals are honoured, while others are not. I’m yet to work out how a Karachiite knows which one are important. But I guess I don’t need to know. Only my driver does.
The day kicks off with a radio interview at City FM 89. A modern studio in the heart of what appears to be the Port district. Container trucks crowd and block the streets. But no one is in a rush here so it doesn’t seem to matter.
There is also an awful smell in this part of Karachi. I’m told it is because of the fish market in close proximity. It isn’t until you hit this highly localised odour that you realise that despite a population of close to 20 million people, Karachi is relatively clean for an Asian city.
I’m really starting to feel tired. I think it’s a combination of jetlag and diet. I’ve mainly being eating meat and bread without much vegetables or fruit. I’m going to make a conscious effort to make even this balance up as I’m feeling rather heavy from it.
Melbourne is 6 hours ahead of Pakistan and so when the crew want to go and dine at say 10pm, my body is at 4am. This time difference also makes it hard to Skype my kids. They are either in bed or at school when I wake up or get back from the day’s shooting.
It’s tough and I miss them.
The back seat of the bus makes a great bed as we travel to the office of Nadeem Omar. He is the owner of the Pakistan Super League team Quetta Gladiators. Nadeem is a veteran philanthropist, ploughing money back into the country’s sporting programs at all levels.
For Nadeem, sport is an avenue for kids to occupy their mind with positive pursuits. But he explains that others in Pakistan with the means to help could be doing more. I sense it is a real sore point for him.
Our last official appointment for the day is with Farhan Saeed. Clearly the most inspirational person I’ve met in a long long time, if not ever.
Farhan contracted polio as a child and lost the use of one leg. However, he doesn’t recognise himself as disabled.
“I am normal”
Farhan plays for the Pakistani Disabled Cricket Team. He bowled their first ever ball.
The ground where we are meeting him has a T20 game winding up. We organise for Farhan to bowl to one of the batsmen.
It is difficult to accurately describe how Farhan bowls, except to say that watching a guy use a crutch off a 15 metre run up and ping it with speed and accuracy brought tears. You’ll need to see the final documentary to truly understand what Farhan overcomes, but on his third delivery, he knocked out this guy’s leg stump with a pearler.
The players who were watching had never seen Farhan bowl and were in awe. If nothing else, they would have walked away energised from the spirit of this man.
“I just work harder than everyone else” Farhan tells me.
This guy is my new favourite cricketer.
It is an exaggeration to say that cricket is everywhere in the streets. It isn’t. What I’m witnessing is that planned tape ball tournaments and friendlies are a constant in the parks, but I’ve only seen a few games in the back streets. Maybe I’m driving the wrong streets?
Hadeel Obaid is a female cricket journalist who started Khelo Kricket. A web and media company dedicated to street and local games. A strong, independent and thoughtful young entrepreneur. I ask her about like in Pakistan as a woman and how hard it was to crack into cricket journalism.
“At first it was hard. I was the only woman at the grounds and the men were asking why I was there. But now it is accepted and common. Cricket grounds are a safe and welcoming place for women now.”
But she goes on to explain that societal issues still hinder the growth of females in the game. There is a segment of Pakistan that have a rather firm view on a women’s role that misaligns with modern thinking. I find this perplexing given that Pakistan had the world’s first female Prime Minister.
It’s an amazing juxtaposition and a complex one to understand with any sense of clarity. Then again, this is Pakistan. A walking, breathing, heaving riddle that I’m detecting will be near impossible to solve in the short time that I am here.
We were trying hard to catch up with Younis Khan, but unfortunately, personal matters had him occupied. However, he sent his manager to meet me with an engraved miniature bat and an apology that he couldn’t find the time to meet. He didn’t need to do that, but he did.
The guys had planned to take me into the Arabian Sea for some night crabbing and a meal of traditional Karachi biryani. Although I was keen to do so, my body said no. I wouldn’t last. I was just too exhausted. So instead we hit an ocean side restaurant, sat outside and ate some of the finest tasting beef and chicken dishes to ever enter my mouth.
I asked one of the staff to come and explain the dishes to me, and the pride beamed off his face and he described the cooking techniques of each dish to me. But unfortunately, this pace didn’t sell biryani.
I’d flown all this way and through a combination of bad luck, poor planning and my fatigue, I’d missed out on Karachi’s signature dish.
It just means that I’ll have to come back again.