Wednesday, April 1, 2009

An unissued issue

The readers of "Notes From Karachi and All Over" will recognize the 'author' .For the rest, I have only one advice....happy reading! By the way, this is the April 2008 issue which was never issued(forgive the pun).The fact that it's incomplete should serve as an explantion as to why it never made its way to your mailboxes.

"Whoever said good things in the world do not last?Here is another issue of "Notes From Karachi And All Over" in your mailbox.

Anyway, April was not a very exciting month all in all. We hardly ventured out of home. Partly because the weather has become much hotter, which has made us very lethargic. The only place that we went to was the Sunday Bazaar, hardly a stimulating place. I have seen enough of it to last me a lifetime. But so long as one doesn't have the means to start growing things for oneself, and doesn't like the 'wilted' veggies on offer at the super market, one cannot avoid a weekly trip to the Sunday bazaar.

The only variation in this ritual was a trip to the famous (or must I say infamous?) Empress Market. It's a very old market place, and if the name denotes nothing to you, it's English structure hints at it's imperial origins. However, the only 'glorious' thing about it is it's name. Otherwise, the old halls are crumbling, the place is infested with millions of flies, the stench is unbearable, and the men are all dirty and gawk at you. The prices are slighly lower than your nearby supermarket. The only good thing is, you can find almost anything under the sun in this market. If you are a bird fancier, there are all varieties of birds on sale here. The fact that they are all cooped up in unhygenic, very small cages is a different debate altogether. We even saw cute little rabbits and lean hungry looking cats, all in cages that were much too small for them, and none of them looked well fed.

We were looking for some spices and herbs, which one could not hope to find anywhere on the earth except in a 'pansari's dukaan'. It was a really small place, tucked in a by-alley, which we would normally never have stumbled upon. Thanks to a diligent old man, who incessantly offered us his services as a porter,(which we declined) we were led to the place. There were hundreds of plastic containers there, each with a label on it, and looked as if it had never been washed since the day it first came into use. The place was adjacent to a mosque. If you took an ill constructed house, and decorated it like a mazaar, you will get the mosque that I am talking about.

The poor old man kept dogging our steps. He wasn't the only one. This is something that I have come across only in Karachi. The hosts of people pestering you to hire them to carry your shopping. Of course, none of them is doing purely out of altruistic reasons, which is quite understandable. What one does not understand is, from where did they learn these 'agressive marketing techniques'. You barely enter the market, and you are accosted by one of these guys, who never take your 'no' seriously, and are under the impression that you are merely kidding them. Why must you carry your goods if they are there, all good and ready to grab them. An interesting aspect is that in the Empress market, all this 'mazdoor' for hire were old, wrinkled men. But in the sunday market, most of them are young boys. Some are so small indeed that you wonder how can they manage to carry anything. Also, the younger kids are more aggressive. I guess it's because they have more energy as compared to the older guys.

Enough about boring shopping trips. You have still not heard what happened when we went to Thatta! Nothing much. But we managed to see three different places in one day. Now I am sure, our old readers must be wondering if we have some superstitious attachment to number three. Why do we visit three places in one day. The answer is, why not! It was merely a co-incident, all these places happened to be so close to each other.

The first stop was at the 16th century necropolis of Makli, about whose existence I had never heard in my life till I came here. The name kept cropping up in conversation, and we kept being puzzled about why would everyone be so fascinated by a graveyard. You see, everyone kept referring to it as 'Makli ka Qabaristan', no one clarified that it was an entire city. And I for one was not prepared for it when I reached there. It's a veritable city of dead people. There were clusters of graves of one family everywhere. But it was not just a group of family tombs. There were some very elaborate structures of one peer or another.

It was a very eerie feeling, to see all those beautiful structers, clustered together. And there is nothing but one grave after another, one tomb after another. Despite the fact that most of them are in very dilapidated condition now, there is still enough to show you how grand they must have been when they were erected. The engravings were done beautifully and masterfully. All of them were made of sand colored stones and mostly had Quranic scriptures engraved on them. The higher one's social stature was, the nicer was their final resting place.

What really impressed us was the fact that all these tombs had thick stone wall, which made the interiors very cool, despite the heat outside. Although, would it make any difference to the people buried there whether the sun was blaring on their graves, or whether they were shaded by beautifully engraved roofs? I have never felt such a confusing swirl of emotions as in that place. How transient the world is, how conceited, or misguided we are when alive, and what is our end? Were those tomb ordered in thier own lifetimes or were they erected by those who were left behind them? Did it occur to them in all their pomp and glory that one day, their grave will be nothing more than a place that people can visit at whim? Why, oh why are we so vain!

From there we proceeded to the famous mosque at Thatta, which was built in Shah Jehan's times. It was a cool blue and pink, and is more than four centuries old. As is customary, one found enough numbers of beggars there. Another highlight was all the bangle sellers, who had laid out their wares on cloth sheets, on the side of the paved path that leads to the mosque. The glass bangles were of various colours, but mostly of the same texture. 5 RS. for each pair! But there was very little variety in terms of designs. Most of them had the same wares on offer, and all bangles were of the same design, just different colours."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was there an issue with this issue last year? I need a (t)issue.

Very witty, simply humorous, and straightforward. Makes the reader feel a part of it.
It is a good point that you raised about Makli in fact being a city, rather than a graveyard. Most, if not all people, dont know that. Very well described.

Arimas said...

Thanks anonymous.I am surprised how few people in Punjab know about Makli. I have no idea about other provinces. But it's a good thing that this place has been added on the world heritage list or something.

Arimas said...

I saw Makli's pic on another website! I will post pics here when I am free.

Post a Comment