Instant City chronicles the life of Karachi – of a city in Pakistan that seems to be the only metropolis and yet the dichotomy lies in it being so backward at times, that even its people fail to recognize it. Karachi has been transformed a lot since the India-Pakistan partition and in many ways that most people fail to see. Steve Inskeep brilliantly writes and captures the essence of the city with its fallacies and successes (whatever little it might have had) and doesn’t become judgmental at any time while doing so.
The book is divided into four parts – Jinnah Road, Landmarks, New Karachi and Renewed Karachi. What surprised me about the book was that Steve Inskeep has not left any stone unturned. Karachi is no easy city to write about. It is as good as writing about Bombay or Delhi or Calcutta for that matter – a city just as developing and constantly changing. At the same time, it is questioning itself in many aspects – from the religious standpoint to the new ideas formed by the newer generation. From the brand conscious elite that surrounds the city to the systems and functioning of the government. Steve Inskeep as managed to capture the essence of the modern and the traditional aspects of the city at the same time, which is no easy feat.
For a first book, Steve Inskeep sure did make me turn the pages. I was engrossed in the lives of everyday people set against the tumultuous city and its history, present and what the future might bring with it. The writing is structured, though there are parts that could have been dealt with differently, however they do require the detailing. Instant City is a book that also cannot be read in one sitting. It needs thought and breaks with those thoughts. I recommend the book for its writing and its clarity. I also recommend it for the capacity of the writer to go beyond the obvious.