Naryan Pura, an old neighborhood in Ranchor Lines is epitome of Karachi’s diversity. For centuries, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs have lived next to each other, celebrating each other’s festival as their own. The neighborhood has three temples, three churches and an impressive Gurdwara.
KD, a friend of mine from work was showing us around that day. After visiting some of the temples in Ranchor Lines, we reached one of the entrances of Narayan Pura. Back in the day, Narayan Pura had eight entrances but four of them were closed after 1992 riots which erupted across the country as result of Babri Mosque desecration in Ayodhya – India. Tit for Tat. According to our limited wisdom.
There were heaps of garbage all around. The hard-working people living in Narayan Pura work in municipal sanitary services – the reason a lot of people refer to Narayan Pura as Bhangi Pada – but their own neighborhood lacks basic sanitary infrastructure. As we entered the gate, we noticed some elders sitting at a roadside stall selling CDs looking at us suspiciously. We introduced ourselves and little later we were all smiles. The constant fear which the city residents harbor has forced Narayan Pura residents to be vigilant also. They welcomed us wholeheartedly and we walked through the lane we could not help but wonder at the warmth which this neighborhood enjoyed – warmth that you can’t buy and sell.
Kids played freely in the street, running from one house to another. I could see a lot of women, some cleaning their houses, some running after their children and others chatting leisurely on the rooftops. There was a sense of security which comes due to interdependence among residents. One could buy and sell a false sense of security in this city but can one buy social capital?
The temples and churches are rather humble in Narayan Pura but the Gurdwara was an exception. Renovated recently, it was clean and sparkled under florescent lights. Most of the Gurdwaras in Karachi are established inside Hindu temples but it was not the case in Narayan Pura.