Itwaar Bazaar

  • Sunday Market/ Itwaar Bazaar, Gulshan-e-iqbal, Karachi
  • Amna Fareed

I’ve spent a major part of my life in Hyderabad where even the idea of a Sunday or a Monday market would’ve been considered as an idiotic one. But since the day I shifted to Karachi, I’ve been hearing about these markets so much that these markets seem to be an integral part of the shopping experience of the residents of Karachi. I used to see people wearing shirts they bought from some random daily market which looked better than my branded ones. I used to see people buying ‘nike’ original kits for an amount which was less than half of the original price. Sights like these excited me to the point where I actually asked my parents to let me go and explore the famous Sunday bazaar. To my surprise, they did not even give it a second thought and simply refused it!! Although I’ve always heard good things about the bazaar, my parents thought otherwise. According to them, young girls cannot be sent to the Sunday or Monday or whatever day market because of the environment within the bazaar. According to my mom, the shopkeepers were of a specific ethnicity, the Pukhtoons. Well, fast forward, yesterday was my first of many visits to the Sunday market. It was only allowed because I had to conduct my ethnographic research on the famous Sunday bazaar.

The Sunday Bazaar is a huge open thrift market which happens simultaneously at different locations within the city. It is a one-stop shop hence you will find anything and everything here, ranging from shoes to books, electronic items to clothing materials, toys to vegetables, everything!!

It is a wholesale-cum-flea market and caters to people from all the walks of life. There are vendors, laborers, celebrities, families, singles, everyone! These Sunday bachat bazaars depict our real Pakistani culture and are getting popular day by day because of the economic scenario of the country. You get branded imported stuff for the cheapest and unimaginable rates.

It was a hot Sunday afternoon, we were heading towards the famous Itwaar Bazaar and we could feel the scorching rays of sun on our skin.

The Sunday bazaar was made up of huge tents and the sellers were sitting on the floor with a green signature carpet (which was made up of parachute material). There was an unimaginable amount of dust in the market. Majority of the sellers were Baloch and Pukhtoon but I could see some natives too. Upon asking how the natives ended up here, in the market run by“Pehle zainab market main dukaan main nokri tia, abb Allah ne yahan rizq likhdia apna stall lagata hoon apna kamata hoon koi order nae deta” said a 34 year old urdu speaking seller named Jabbar. Jabbar lives in an area called Garden and according to him, his family migrated from Puraani Dehli, India. Jabbar has an earning of approx. 4 thousand per week (minus the expenditures) and according to him this is more than what his brothers earn in a factory.

The bazaar was full of chaos, women bargaining over a 100 rs and the sellers refusing them, several groups of young boys trying on shoes and discussing football, old men lusting over young girls, the disappointed sellers lowering their prices after maghrib adhan, husbands waiting for their wives to get done with the loitering, “Kuch nahi milraha to chaldo ghar phir kabhi dekhlena” said an irritated husband, “arey jootey lene they mujhe fuzool main purse lelia” replied the wife, with layers of confusion in her voice.

The smell of sweat was constant in the bazaar, to the point where it became normal for us. Another smell was that specific odor of a landa bazaar, which the baloch seller referred to as “Dry clean ki smell haina baji”. There were a hundred types of shoes, from boots to flip flops, from sandals to joggers, all that the mind could think of. “Yeh sab jootey kitney dinon main bikjaenge?” I asked a baloch seller, who was looking at me with excitement in his eyes, “Pehle batao yeh likh kya raha hai tum baji?” He answered me with a question. I handed over my diary to him, he smiled and told his cousin “Arey wah, English likha hai” to which his cousin looked at me and said “Hum quetta se aya hai, per urdu seekhgaya hai, English nae aati ab tak per seekhega abhi”. The names of these sellers were Abdul Wahab and Ahmed Jan and both of them were cousins. “Yeh jootey hum shershah se laya hai, wahan kaarkhana hai bara, wahan se lala ke saath jaaker laatey hain hum sab” Abdul Wahab told me, “Lala kon?” I asked, “Lala is bazaar ka baap hai aur hamara chacha hai” they replied with a laugh. Lala is the person who manages the bazaar, from the stalls to the sellers, nothing can be moved or changed without his permission, he calls himself the supervisor of the bazaar but he apparently has no position in the government or the administration.

The reason why the cousins travelled from Quetta to Karachi was a bit shocking, they were earning and saving money for their wedding. “Hum quetta ab do saal baad jaega, shaadi ke lie pandhra lakh jama karke” said Abdul Wahab. “Zulm hai bohat wahan, susr mera pandhra lakh maangta hai beti ke badlay, abhi tak shaadi nae hua hamari aur iski. Behnain hain hamari auratein” said Ahmed Jan. “Abhi do haftay main bikjaega saara maal. Phir lala ko dega paisey, phir lala susr ko dega paisey, phir hoga hamari shaadi. Abhi to hotel se khaana khaatay hum, aurat hi nahi hai koi” said Abdul Wahab, the Baloch shoe seller in Sunday Market.

Over all, it was an amazing experience, interacting with people I’ve never met and exploring the bazaar was a thrilling and exciting experience. The informality of that place gave it a heart and it felt like a treasure hunt. You have to dig deep in the pile of clothes on the cart in order to find the perfect Armani for your brother. Also, you should tuck all the good stuff under your arm so that no one else can snatch it from you. After checking the size, the smell, the label and everything, now comes the time to negotiate on the price. Well, this was an amazing and fun sight to see too. Bargaining in a loud voice somehow resulted in a better price. Also, a life saving advice for everyone who wants to visit the daily bachat bazaar, please turn up looking like a humble and very simple person who is struggling to feed a family of six or maybe more on a very limited income. Appearance matters! Also, a good and keen eye and quick decision making are also very important. Happy shopping!