Two Karachiites in conversation with each other at a barber’s shop while they wait for their turns:
First guy: This ‘gormint’ is as useless as a punctured stepney. I mean look at what just 2 days of rain has done to the city!
Second guy: Mmmmm…. (Maintains his attention on skimming through images on the showbiz page of a newspaper without caring too much about the date of the paper)
First guy: You know how difficult it was to just reach here from my place? It was like laboring my way through a swamp. Disgusting!!!
Second guy: (Pulls his head out of the newspaper almost involuntarily) But you had to come here, didn’t you?
First guy: Of course! What else could I have done at home? I was getting bored. The electricity’s playing hide and seek since the day the first drop of rain fell on those fragile electricity wires in our area. All thanks to our ‘gormint’.
Second guy: So, basically you had nothing to do & you thought it would be a good idea to step out for a while and visit the barber’s? (Puts the newspaper away and turns his attention completely towards the first guy)
First guy: (Affably) Yes!
Second guy: And you ‘labored’ your way through the ‘swamp’ to reach here just because you were getting bored?
First guy: (With the same zeal) Yes! And because I knew there would be electricity here.
Second guy: How did you know there would be electricity here?
First guy: Well, they have a different PMT for this area. I hook up the ‘kunda’ for my place from this very line. (Looks at the barber and winks at him with a smirk)
Second guy: (Confused) So you didn’t hook up your ‘kunda’ today?
First guy: Of course I did. But my cable operator doesn’t do that. So, I couldn’t watch TV.
Second guy: Right! So, don’t you think the electricity crisis in the city may also have something to do with the ‘kunda’ culture that we have. I mean they do announce that areas with electricity theft and low recovery will experience load shedding.
First guy: That’s all bullshit! How is my ‘kunda’ theft?
Second guy: (Baffled) How is it not?
First guy: It is theft when no one pays for the electricity I consume, right?
Second guy: (Keenly) Yes…
First guy: Well, I’m already over-charged for the units I consume legally. They can deduct the amount for the units I consume through my ‘kunda’ from there. The day they stop looting the consumers, all problems will be solved.
Second guy: So, it is there fault completely?
First guy: It sure is. The whole ‘Gormint’ is at fault. They can manage nothing properly. They’re just interested in getting their pockets filled. I mean, just look at these guys from the building control authority for instance.
Second guy: What about them?
First guy: I built an extra floor at my place and the day the whole floor got completed, they came over with their team to demolish it. They claimed that it was illegal.
Second guy: Was it?
First guy: So what if it was! I gave them what they wanted when I got the layout approved for it.
Second guy: So you knew it was illegal and you still went ahead with it?
First guy: That’s not the problem. The problem is that they knew what was happening all along and yet they didn’t say a word until it was all complete. They knew I had nowhere to go after that. Bloody blackmailers!
Second guy: So, the problem lies with them, you say?
First guy: Oh! So what do YOU think? It’s my fault?
Second guy: (Retreating) Oh no! Why would I think that? Why would I possibly think that?
First guy: See! They have crooks in disguise of ‘gormint’ officials. They can’t swallow the fact that someone can earn a little from their own assets.
Second guy: Earn?
First guy: Yeah! Someone must have tipped them off about me.
Second guy: Tipped them off about you… building the extra floor?
First guy: No, about me selling off portions of my house.
Second guy: (Takes a look at the grinning barber who was busy clipping off another customer’s hair) Oh, boy! You sold off portions of your house. How many?
First guy: I made 6 portions- sold 5 of them. Had to keep one for myself too, u know. (Chuckles)
Second guy: So, you made 6 portions in a 120 sq. yard house and sold 5 of them. Impressive!
First guy: (With excitement that had arrogance written all over it) Isn’t it? I can get you in touch with the contractor who did it. The guy can make Burj Khalifa over an Eighty Sq. Yard plot.
Second guy: (As if he had heard enough) No, thanks. I’m good. I think I should leave now. I will probably come back some other time for the haircut. (Stands up and puts his hand on the barber’s shoulder to indicate that he’s leaving)
First guy: There’s a marsh outside waiting for you, remember? A gift from the local authorities to the citizens of the ‘CITY OF LIGHTS’. A blend of rain and sewerage water. They can’t even clear the gutters of this city efficiently, for God’s sake!
Second guy: (Turns around to the first guy with a look of annoyance this time) That’s probably because the gutters are working overtime already with people like you illegally building and selling off portions to settle multiple families in accommodations that should ideally house a single household. A sewerage line installed to cater a single family is being flooded with excessive waste on a permanent basis. But hey! That’s not your mistake either, is it?
First guy: (Pretentiously surprised) You mean it is???
Second guy: (Frustrated) Oh no! It is all the government’s fault. All of it! Just that everyone sitting in those government offices and helm of affairs are a reflection of who we are. You, and me, and everyone around us. The ones accepting bribes are as at fault as the ones offering it. People who are not doing their jobs properly of enforcing law are as at fault as those who are breaking it. I’m literally fed up with people whining all the time about everything being everybody else’s responsibility while they sit back and be a part of the very corrupt system they complain about.
First guy: (As calm as a millpond) Take it easy, ‘Imran Khan’! Have a glass of water. Or should I order you a cold drink? You’re next in line for the haircut and if I had to swim back home through a swamp, I’d do it with a nice clean haircut. Especially after I’d waited for it for quite some time. (Looks around at the other men waiting for their turns with the most brazen of giggles)
Second guy: (Sarcastic) Don’t worry about me. I’ll order a boat.
First guy: Fine, suit yourself! They’ve got Peak Factors on these days on boats too, by the way! (Bursts into laughter as the second guy storms out of the barber’s shop)
Hammad A. Mateen