Karachi is a melting pot of many different flavors as ethnic and cultural diversity lies at the heart of it. Not many of us who have lived in Karachi for years would know of a neighborhood in Ranchor Lines Saddar, Narayanpura which is home to multiple ethnic groups – Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. It was established by a Hindu activist named Narayandas in 1824.
Narayanpura has eight entrances, four of which are closed now. We got in touch with Pandit Vishram before visiting the neighborhood, but found Richie at the entrance who greeted us heartwarmingly and was more than welcoming to show us around. We were touched by the community’s hospitality and how they welcomed strangers while opening their places of worship for us to see.
Park Methodist church happened to be on our right, which remains locked during the day and opens in evening for the worshippers. Richie tried to trace the caretaker so we could see the church from inside but the odds weren’t in our favor.
From outside the compound, we could see Pakistani flag soaring high from a rooftop while electrical overhead wires hung loosely around. As we made our way through cramped alleys, we arrived at the Shri Nawal Mandir. Pandit Vishram gave us a tour of the vibrant Mandir and patiently answered the questions I asked him, out of curiosity. “We are free to practice our religion here and respect everyone else’s beliefs as well. I am a proud Pakistani Hindu living here in Narayanpura”, shared Pandit Vishram.
This community is an epitome of religious harmony and tolerance as people take part in each other’s celebrations be it Diwali, Holi, Christmas or Vaisakhi regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Traditional decorations including garlands, stockings and bells hanging from wires, reminded us that it wasn’t until long ago when the Christian community celebrated Christmas.
As we walked around the compound a few days before Holi, we could see children gathered around a swing with their beaming faces. While a Sikh boy wore a lime green dastar, another child’s forehead was adorned with tilak. Standing next to him was rather a shy-looking Christian boy of whose shiny silver Christian cross pendant, the sun reflected off. While children of different communities stood next to each other, waiting for their turn to get on the swing, the message of peace and acceptance was evident.
There is diversity in the place and tolerance in the blood of people around which is reminiscent of Karachi’s essence, known for its diversity and co-existence. We hope the city of lights and its people follow this motto: Live and Let live as we can only have unity in diversity.
Photography : Hamna Iqbal Baig & Rahmeen Shaikh