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Diary Entries from my Childhood: Violence in Karachi

Whenever I’ve looked back at my childhood in Karachi, I’ve tended to disregard and filter out the fact that it was riddled with conflict and violence. In fact, I’d be defending it against my Lahori cousins, telling them that the news just exaggerates things. That was back when I was around 10-12. When I was 12, my family moved to Saudi Arabia. I packed up all the things I didn’t want to throw away into a little ‘memory box’, which traveled with me all the way to Riyadh, and then to Lahore when we eventually moved back. A couple days ago, I came across my memory box- a shoe box stuffed with diaries, tickets and cards- and read some of my old diary entries out of curiosity.


Skimming through the pages, I was shocked to see the way that conflict and violence were so casually mentioned in my entries. Perhaps the fact that I lived in a safer neighborhood contributed to the way that I downplayed it, or perhaps I had become desensitized to it.


The first instance of conflict I found was in my very first diary, when I was merely nine, about the death of Benazir Bhutto.



Needless to say, nine year old me was living in her own world, only concerned with the fact that school was off tomorrow, as a result of the conflict I could not then understand.


However, as I kept on reading, I saw more subtle hints of attacks and protests, peaking in 2014, around the time Altaf Hussain got arrested. Then, I found a diary entry from when I was 12:



This entry was concerning the attack on Karachi’s airport, and (as I know now), had nothing to do with Altaf Hussain’s arrest. Yet, for 12-year-old-me, it was one instance of violence after another and so I figured they were related. This diary entry was absolutely heart-wrenching to read. It brought to the surface the numerous acts of terrorism and conflict that I had been hearing of for years. While it initially complained of birthday parties cancelled and outings delayed, it moved on to more serious things: a classmate whose father was murdered, robberies on gun-point, the time my father barely escaped a bullet when his phone got snatched. All mingled with the fear that, as I was writing, people were getting shot at and planes were being set on fire. I was most concerned about the fact that schools had just ended, and many of the people I knew were going on vacations, and could possibly be there at the airport.


In retrospect, I realize that I had become desensitized to the violence, conflict and threats- I grew up with them. From the school walls lined with sandbags and closed off with barbed wires, to the security guards with rifles on the roofs; from the practice drills where we hid under our desks, to the safe rooms we were rushed into when a bomb threat was given: violence and fear seemed routine.


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This was such a good, emotional read! Yes, this is true that growing up in environments of conflict, children do feel everything and its not that they do not notice it or maybe they aren't affected by it. These feelings and the response we have just collects inside us and stays there forever and I think the way we become desensitised to them is just a trauma response. After reading your diary pages, I suddenly recalled when Benazir Bhutto was shot and I remember my Ammi and I rushed back home from my doctor's appointment because of the chaos that was starting on roads. They were literally one of the most scariest 45 mins back home for me ever and…

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I loved this post so much, it reminds me of Anne Frank's Diary, and I just now realized that I myself have been desensitized to what happened in Karachi, because I never faced it... But now that I just read a first person narrative of someone whom I'm in close contact with (as a classmate, even though we haven't talked before), it suddenly seems so much more real. To think that a little 12 year old is writing so casually about firing and terrorists, where a 12 year old might not even know about the existence of something as basic as courses like psychology, literature, knows about the existence of terrorists...

I wonder, what can even be done in these…

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Thank you for sharing this, Eman. It is extremely unfortunate when children have to make room for violence in their life. I find this relatable to a certain extent. You have mentioned desensitization in your blog and it clearly shows in the diary entry. The way you mentioned Benazir Bhutto's assassination and shifted your focus immediately to the fun part of the day has forced me to reconsider memories of my own past - how once I became too familiar with violence, I started overlooking it.

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Loved reading your diary. It took me back into my childhood when I did my diary entries quite regularly. I remember that it was March of 2012, when bomb blasts were a common thing, we got off from school early due to blast on a Christian school. The first thing I did when I reach home was to write down what I was feeling.

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This was well written. Thank you for sharing this. I also remember the days when somebody had talked against Altaf Hussain and the next day there was a complete strike. I was staying with my relative and after listening to the news we had decided to go back to our home. When we were going back on our car we saw some man spraying chemicals on car to put into fire. Then we had retracted from our decision of going home and it made us very stressful. However, we have recovered from these violence and chaos and hoping that these violent times do not come back again.

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