Great Balls of Fire!

Discussing fires yesterday, with a group of friends, I realized we don't really consider fire too much of a threat here in Pakistan. I'm sure, in Karachi people have some kind of fire escape plan, should their houses ever catch on fire. Calling the fire department, would be last on their lists of course. I remember years ago, working at a local hotel, which decided to excessively conduct a series of fire drills one year. Some of us were selected to climb out of the fifth floor (big ass hotel floors folks, not your average residential building floors), and then fight our way down a canvas chute, attached to a fire truck. I signed up, took the elevator up, climbed out of the balcony, started down the chute, then remembered I'm claustrophobic. Of course, the two firefighters there to assist us, thought I was mental. I climbed back out, jumped back into the balcony, and watched the firefighter light a cigarette, before I went off in search of a drink.

Should there be a fire in the apartment building we live in, I have an escape plan in mind. We live on the 1st floor, so instead of running down stairs, while the building burns, and people stampede, I think it would be easier to tie the kids in sheets, and lower them over the balcony. The Huz, would need to climb down first, which is fine, because he can climb up and down sewerage pipes easily (at least he used to over a decade ago, when footballs, and tennis balls needed retrieving). I see a great future for him in the U.S. as a firefighter, should we ever move there. And of course, if that happens, I will be a fire-fighter's wife, and expect everyone to thank me for my husband's service. Oh wait... wrong service.

As you can see, fire is not scary in Pakistan. In fact, we love fire over here, more than we love to hate our cricket team... At least that's what it's been like in the last decade. BOOM goes a market, then everything catches fire, and people gleefully jump over burning carts, and flaming fruit stalls to rescue old men and women, who were only there for a bargain. OK, maybe not gleeeeefully, but man can they jump.

Then, of course there are the groups who hate "blasphemers", and burn down their residences, villages, churches, and parts of their towns,  After, which the media will film the burning for hours, while people watch, and young children learn why their city is called the "City of Lights" and/or 'The most violent city in the world.' 

As you can see, no panic. We're a fearless bunch.

Tyre burning is another great local sport. Fuel prices go up, power outages become unbearable, "rival groups burned tyres on Tuesday? It's our turn now." It doesn't matter. People find their excuse, and take to the streets, yanking tyres off vehicles, drenching them in petrol and setting them ablaze on main roads. Other people abandon their cars, and run around looking for more tyres, to throw on the massive fires all around them. Most go home, because watching endless re-runs of it on the news, while sipping chai at a local Dhaba, or alternatively, updating Facebook with "OMG I was just THERE" is more appealing.

One lonely tyre... Not for long.

Bus burning. Well, because buses are just so goddamned badass, and big, and look so scary when set ablaze. Why not? And, easily accessible too, these buses, since they can always be found on the streets, shuttling working people back and forth, so you know, they can maybe earn a living, and feed their small children.

Looks gorgeous in print doesn't it?

Flag burning. No excuse needed, it's yet another fiery national sport, sponsored by people who clearly manufacture international flags, and have lots of 'Not fit for export' ones to spare. India, Israel, The Netherlands, Sweden, were this decades favorites, OK, OK, the Indian flag has always been a favorite.... coming in second, only to Israel. Until recently that is. Then came the American flag... And, the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave? Nonsense! Ah, it remains the most sought after flag to burn. Even though there seems to be an endless supply of it available, at any given impromptu flag burning ceremony. If you've burned an American flag, you're a hero.

But please, keep giving us visas, and aid for Sesame Street productions.

Coming in last, but certainly not the least. The effigy. One cannot begin to describe the passion and emotion behind the burning of an effigy in Pakistan. We've burned so many over the years, created so many remarkable likenesses from George W. and the Pope, to members of our national cricket team  The effigy, without doubt, is our true love.
Dude, why are you beating it?

All this talk of fire has made me hungry. Think I'll fire up the grill tonight.


Tashas Talkies said...

Brilliant Anne…. I want to laugh at loud at the wit, yet cry at the harshness of the truth which has now become our reality.