Listen to this article
Two girls sitting by a rainy window, one has her head in her hands in fear, the other takes a selfie happily

The Climate disaster trauma within us

Behind the Scenes of "Rehmat or Zehmat? Learning to Cope with Trauma From Rain in a Pakistani Metropolis"

How does rain effect your city?


Last year, my father spent his 70th birthday in Karachi at home with my mother, without any electricity for hours. All around their apartment building was knee-deep floodwater in an area of the city considered ‘posh’ for years.

Floods caused by rain have been a pressing issue in Karachi for decades. But now as the world collectively seems to be making an effort to talk about climate change more, it’s time to focus on damage control in cities like Karachi where floods render people homeless. Then there is also the trauma from such disastrous floods that follow us ‘Karachiites’ wherever we go when we leave. Be it a dorm room in Europe where you pursue higher education or a work trip to America, where there may not be life-threatening climate disasters but one can’t help but feel the need to stay indoors in an attempt to feel secure because psychologically and emotionally, rainy moments just never feel right.

In our latest personal essay written by Zoya Anwer, we wanted to shed light on how something like rain can cause lifelong trauma, and its impact on language (Urdu) and music for people living in Karachi. In Karachi, where monsoon season often means days without electricity, flooded roads and property damage, is rain truly a rehmat (blessing) from nature or ongoing zehmat (misery) for city dwellers?

As Zoya explains in the article: “It is during the outpour that a very painful linguistic migration occurs: the Urdu word رحمت (Rehmat: blessing) gets a nuqta (dot) on the first letter changing it from ray to zay (ر to ز ). Thus transforming it to the word زحمت (Zehmat: trouble/misery) reflecting the misery caused by the state's callousness and neglect.”

While for some Western countries, rain is just…well, rain, people from other parts of the world where annual floods are commonplace carry within themselves anxiety and stress surrounding heavy rainfall.

When I first saw ‘Singin’ In the Rain’ and the song came on, I couldn’t understand the joy behind it. Not because he was in love but because of where I’m from, singing outside in the rain means being ogled at by men who freely embrace public spaces or possible electrocution from live wires in the flood water that gathers rather fast in some areas of Karachi. Other South Asian cities too, have increasingly been dealing with climate disasters, and this personal essay by Zoya was our attempt to start a conversation around how those of us belonging to affected regions carry some wounds within us related to climate change. 

We hope that this piece got you thinking about rain in your own regions. If you hope for more thought-provoking pieces from Unbias the News, we would love your support.

Please consider a donation to support the work of our all-women newsroom. We create a space for journalists facing structural barriers, working towards a more equitable, inclusive world of journalism. Join our mission today!

Related Posts

A man holding a lantern in his darkened town overlooks a city in the distance brightly lit by electricity in this illustration by Charity Atakunda

Can green hydrogen tackle Nigeria’s persistent energy poverty?

With the rising urgency of the Climate Crisis, green hydrogen is the shiniest newcomer in global conversations on energy production. However, with sub-Saharan African countries contributing less than 3% (0.2% for Nigeria) to global carbon emissions, the more pressing question is how the continent can harness its existing resources to sustainably meet its own energy demand for economic development and poverty reduction

Small children work at the bed of a river, panning for gold

Zimbabwe: Child labourers swarm the trenches of predatory Odzi

“During the third week of the first Covid-19 lockdown, we ran out of the little food we had. We spent two days on empty stomachs and this forced me to join a group of children from my village who were going to pan for gold along Odzi River. I have not stopped since then,” she said.

Unbias your inbox

Do you share our mission? Sign up for our newsletter so we can keep in touch!

Please confirm that you would like to hear from us via email:
We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.