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Karachi: A place for all souls

Pakistan, intended as a place for India's Muslims after partition, makes its Christians and Hindus feel welcome, too.

Among the raucous families, one spotted a trio of nuns and a couple of monks. And there were hawkers selling calendars featuring the Virgin Mary, boxes of incense, cellophane bags brimming with rose petals and marigolds strung into necklaces; beggars sat outside the entrance gate, hands stretched, while policemen wielding batons kept vigil. Inside, the marble gravestones and crosses glowed in candlelight and the aura of the full moon.

The names of gravestones, from Parveen Akhtar to Oswald D’Costa, suggested the varied Christian population of the city, the former probably Punjabi, the latter probably Goan. The community is almost evenly divided between the Catholic and Protestant church.

The Archbishop of Karachi, Reverend Evarist Pinto, had reportedly blessed the graveyard early in the afternoon. After having the graves swept and watered by boys running to and fro with tin buckets, families later garlanded the crosses with necklaces. Then, heads bowed, they prayed for the dead.

A young pony-tailed musician, a bass player in a band that had recently broken up, had accompanied his parents that night. He said that the last services of the day were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When conversation turned to the music, he averred the industry had experienced a downturn in the last three years.

Some musicians had even immigrated. He added, however, that a relative of his who commanded a handsome salary at an advertising firm had recently immigrated only to find himself running accounts at a fast food joint.

In a country savaged by desperate and indiscriminate terrorist attacks in the last few months, life, the bass player concluded, was “all right.”