Chaos In Karachi - The Gendered Impacts of Rain - Maheen Mansoor
As exciting as this idea sounds, it really is not especially when it rains in the metropolitan hub of Pakistan, Karachi. When it rains here after a full year some people enjoy it with pakoras in their gardens while for others it is praying that their house does not wash away with the rain. However, this year, there was a twist; no-one enjoyed pakoras because it all drowned irrespective of how much one paid to buy land in a specific part of the city. Everyone faced blackouts regardless of how much the electricity bill was in the previous month. The rain did not discriminate beteen the rich and the poor neither did the drainage system but the discrimination between men and women still persisted.
It was definitely not an ideal time for the men of our city, with many of them being stuck in neck deep water on the roads mixed with sewage water; many of them tragically losing their lives due to this urban flooding which in itself is completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, at the same time women had their own troubles to deal with but those are never highlighted. Why that happens, I am not sure. Maybe the reporting is not headline worthy. The ones we see often are along the lines of ‘No electricity for the past 150 hours’ or ‘Man drowns in XYZ underpass’ or ’20 people died of electrocution during this rain season.’ Do not get me wrong, these are very legitimate reasons to get fired up and take a stand against but there are also some chronic diseases of the society which are becoming malignant day by day that have a huge psychosocial impact on those affected and need to be addressed.
My cousin went to work on 27th Aug, 2020, the day all the chaos occured, and was stuck in a pool of water as her transport shuttle broke down. She and a group of her colleagues had been stuck in traffic for the past five hours and were then directed by her company managers to head to the closest hotel and spend the night there till the situation calms down. They were led by the driver, wading through the dirty water but that is not where the agony ended. Like snakes out of dirty water, there were a bunch of boys who started following them making them feel super uncomfortable forcing them to steer closer to their driver to feel safer.
I felt that they might have been unlucky to have come across such a group but unfortunately that was not the case. There were multiple reports on private groups, conversations of girls being groped under the shadow of the water. Personally, I always felt like calamities pull you closer to God, but I suppose that does not apply to everyone and they grab the ‘opportunity’ when they have the chance. Now, you tell me - how are we supposed to feel about this? I will leave it up to you.
Everyone feels hungry after a certain time, regardless of the fact that you may have a broken boundary wall, a commode regurgitating all its contents into your house and water falling through the cracks in your skylight (these are all very legitimate problems). In this scenario, it is inhumane to also call for deliveries so one thinks about getting something to eat at home. While that is completely natural and expected, I fail to understand why mothers would ask only their daughters to come help them out in the kitchen. Everyone is suffering through emotional trauma, so why does the elder brother get to sit in a corner and be disturbed while the younger sister is expected to help you make the perfect warm rotis for bhai and abbu? Why can’t everyone contribute and make the process easier? This is not just the story of one mother or one household, but a lot of them. While I understand that men may have other ‘work’ to do, as is the justification by many mothers, that is not always the case.
With a lot of rain comes a lot of water, that too, inside your house! This is a very Karachi edition of rain, difficult to find elsewhere. So how do most households deal with that? Agony and stress are a given, combined with no electricity (and no phone signals, which are just as important in today’s day and age). Once the water drains out in the next two days, you realize there is more to life than just saving your house-lease documents. Then come the scary thoughts of water-borne diseases, and then you start imagining what substances you had been wading through and unwelcomingly welcomed into your homes. Then begins the process of cleaning up. Most people call their maids and the process is completed smoothly most of the time. Then there are people who cannot afford maids. Does the whole household get up to wash it up? No, the house-washing duty is your wife’s, daughter’s, sister’s, mother’s, sister-in-law’s, your crippled grandmother’s but not the dude who lifts 75kg at the gym and refuses to move from the sofa at home. While I agree that not all men are like that (and we do appreciate them very much), it would feel very nice for a lot of people to work as a team in times of crises.
By quoting these examples, I do not mean to belittle men. Rather I just want you all to appreciate the fact that while feminism has come a long way since the time when women were not even allowed to vote to, there is still a long way for us to go. One may question how we can improve further? The simple answer is an empathetic attitude towards one another; the two genders do not need to be at tenterhooks rather they should understand each other’s issues mutually and work as a team. This change in attitude can be brought by the spread of awareness through platforms such as various organizations working to promote women’s rights along with continuous education at home about mutual respect and a strong action against those who surpass certain boundaries.
Maheen Mansoor is a 4th year medical student and an aspiring surgeon. She leads the research division of the Surgery Interest Group at AKU
She is also a gardening enthusiast with a keen interest in Bonsai and Ikebana. She dedicates her free time in community work mostly at different hospitals in Karachi.