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Kifah in Karachi: Sunday at the Salon

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 7/03/2016 Kifah Shah

"I told Father ji I had a drink at the wedding and he was like, 'Oh my God!'" I overhear Christina laugh as she tells Mary in Punjabi while the two simultaneously work on my manicure and pedicure, not realizing (or not caring) I can understand everything they're saying.
"Father ji says he can help me get to America," Christina says with disinterest.
"Why do you have to go there? America is here," retorts Mary.
In many ways, Mary's right. Over the 1.5 years I've lived here, Karachi has reminded me of the American ideals I was taught growing up, particularly "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Karachi's potential for growth and prosperity is palpable for people across the spectrum. Social mobility takes shape in the form of creative start-ups, soaring youth enrollment rates in vocational training institutes, and increased access to affordable healthcare. My Sunday at the salon illustrates the perfect example of a Karachiite's potential, resilience, and hustle.
"Do you miss it?" Mary pointedly asks me, correctly guessing my foreignness that can unfortunately be seen and heard from a mile away.
"Sometimes, yes," I respond in my accented Urdu.
Only sometimes because I've fallen love with Karachi and how it's teeming with possibilities. As a megacity with an estimated 23+ million population comprised of every ethnicity and religion the region has to offer, Karachi is a melting pot of people and ideas.
Their banter continues and forgets me again, but I'm still eavesdropping as Mary and Christina complain about their manager's tendency to overwork everyone and put no effort in herself. "Ha! She's giving herself a makeover there while we're doing nails!"
They talk to me about their strenuous working hours and the less-than-minimum wage they earn, but not without adding, "We're lucky to have what we have."
As I'm about to leave the salon, Mary whispers to me that it'll shut down soon since the owner is unwell, hands me her Nokia phone and asks me to store my number. Unworried about what may or may not come next, she says she'll call me as soon as she starts a new job.
Like I said, Karachi is full of hustlers and possibilities.

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