City Walk – Around Old Slaughterhouse, Lyari

The Dark side of the city. The Old Slaughterhouse was one of the worst hit areas during infamous gang wars of Lyari. You can see it on the walls. You can sense it on the faces. Old Slaughterhouse has been home to Hindus and Christian workers of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation for almost a century now. While original slaughterhouse building has been demolished, the residential colony is still in use, providing shelter to some of the most marginalized section of our society.

The entrance to the neighborhood is through a gate which opens onto the main road. There is a boundary wall which segregates the area from surrounding housing colonies but it has been breached over and again, the first bunch of people that I meet at newly built one room church tell me. There is a loud speaker which is broadcasting church service into the street and it is way too loud. I request the caretaker to walk little further from the speaker so that we can have a conversation. There are tiny houses on both sides of the street. They are in dire need of repairs. There is a mural on the wall depicting Santa Claus with a sack on his back. Looks like he has a real tough job bringing happiness to this neighborhood! The caretaker calls one of his friend who agrees to show me around. That friend calls another friend and soon we have a small group.

They take me through narrow streets. The area looks like it belongs to a village in rural Punjab. The streets lead to another more spacious church which is called St. Paul’s (there is another church by the same name in Manora). They take me to the Priest’s room which is decorated with plastic flowers. They take plastic chairs out and serve 7up in crystal glasses. The church is perhaps the cleanest part of the neighborhood. We sip soda water and hear their stories silently. They are a resilient bunch. Caught between two gangs, they were harassed, looted and forced to abandon their homes. Life is not easy in other parts of the city either. The cost of living forced them to move back but only after Rangers and Police had cleaned up the area. The area has been calm since but the gang wars have affected the infrastructure and left permanent scars in the memory of Slaughterhouse’s residents.

We make a stop at St. Salesius next, a small but pleasant church. From its rooftop one can get bird’s eye view of the neighborhood. I see a Shikhara standing next to the church bells. It belongs to Ram Dev Mandir, the only temple in the area. The temple is empty but my guides tell me that they will find the caretaker. I see children playing foosball inside a rundown building nearby and I drift away till they find him. There are separate rooms for Foosball, Snooker, Pool and Carom. There is a poster for Apocalypse and ‘An American werewolf in Paris’ pasted on one of the walls. Why? No one has an explanation.

We finally find caretaker who opens temple’s gate. Faqeer, the caretaker of the temple tells me that most of the Hindus of the neighborhood have traveled to Uthal to attend a religious ceremony. The temple, just like the churches is in deep contrast to the neighborhood; painted, clean and orderly. There is an installation of Krishna on a wall which has a blue scenery painted behind it.

We walk through the ruins next. The far side of the coloney has been affected the worst. I can see bullet holes and most of the buildings in that part are not livable anymore. I see a sole ‘mast’ living in one of roofless rooms. There is apolitical commercial graffiti on the walls which hints that the conditions are getting back to normal, at least for some.

Categories: City Walk

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