Sunday Bazaar-The Pride of Karachiites

By Zoha raza jiwani

Sunday Mornings

There was a time when family picnics at Karachi’s famous Sea View, and beaches were the only place to hangout on Sunday mornings. They still are but we now have other options too. Yes you are right! Shopping, what else. Shopping centers have become picnic spots for many of us on Sunday mornings. No, I am not talking about our westernized shopping malls, rather the ‘bachat bazaars’, which depict our real Pakistani culture. Bachat bazaars have become very common in our country, keeping in mind the economic scenario. A few of them are located in Karachi, including Korangi bachat bazaar, Hyderi bachat bazaar, Gulshan bachat bazaar and the most popular and our very own, the DHA bachat bazaar, commonly known as the Sunday bazaar. An open market in Karachi located in Defence Phase 8 where you can find everything possible in this world, from clothes to jewellery, to shoes to hair accessories, from veggies to fruits to spices to cooked food, from stationary to books to magazines to CDs/DVDs, from electronic appliances to every possible thing that you can imagine.

From fair and lovely to dark and ugly

No matter how much we (girls, in fact these days boys too!) want to look fair, we wouldn’t stay back from going to Sunday bazaar with our friends and families but we all have different purposes to go there. Some go there for core shopping activities; to get all they want at throw away prices while some go there for the unique ‘sandy’ experience. Nobody in this world can miss to notice that you have entered the vicinity of Sunday bazaar because of the free rides you get on the ‘kacha’ road leading towards it. If you are fortunate enough, you’d reach there without your car tires getting punctured. However, this is just the beginning of the experience I was talking about. As soon as you reach Sunday bazaar, your car looks like as if it’s dipped in mud. And if you are lucky you might actually find a place to park your car.

The moment you step out of your car, the sun’s scorching heat starts boiling you up and here comes down the first drop of your sweat. And to make the situation even more ‘exciting’, you are hit by a sandstorm (literally!). Within a couple of seconds, you won’t be able to see your feet and ‘chappals’ as they will all be covered in sand (Why wouldn’t I call this a picnic spot then?). Surprisingly, it’s much more than all this at Sunday bazaar!

Sunday Bazaar - A hotspot for matchmaking!

Weird title isn’t it? Well this isn’t my own opinion but of a male student whose story goes something like this;

“I walk to the books section with my head down. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I stopped and started looking at some Men's Health magazines. And then she was there, standing uncomfortably close to me. I looked at her and wondered why she was staring at me. She whispered something then. I thought she was saying hello. I looked at her and smiled thinking that she was one of my dad's friend's daughters. I said hello back. And then she repeated what she had said and I got really confused."Cell number?"I didn't comprehend. So I blurted out,"what?" "Cell number?" she said it again. And then it hit me hard that she wanted my cell number. Was a girl really hitting on me in the middle of Itwar Bazaar? She then took out her cell phone, flipped it open and said it again. All of this took a few seconds.” Indeed Sunday Bazaar has also become a matchmaking spot for some.

‘Pathans’ v/s ‘Burgers’ and ‘Desis’

Sunday bazaar is the only place where ‘desis’ and ‘burgers’ unite in numerous senses; buying the same things, in the same area, from the same persons/shops and on a few instances you wouldn’t know the difference between them because of equal bargaining talents, ignoring their dressing and lingual (language + accents) differences. On one hand where a desi’s mom would ask her daughter to wear a shalwar kameez with the longest dupatta, on the other hand the burger chick would wear the smallest shirt and pant she has in her wardrobe, giving a chance for the pathans to enjoy a free show and why wouldn’t they?. However, one thing common can be seen among the three groups of people. They make full use of their most spoken languages; the burgers wouldn’t stop showing off and asking for things in English, knowing that the pathans wouldn’t understand it. Exhibit A, “Show me that one please. Oh I mean, woh wala dikhana”, where on the other hand the desi would be busy bargaining like this one, “Nai ji bhaiya, mein itne ziada kapre ka kia karugi, meri kamez to adhe mein bun jayegi, Mein to adhe paise hi dugi!” said the fat aunty, listening to which two pathans (salesmen) started talking amongst themselves in Pushto and co-incidentally one of my friends who understands Pushto managed to hear just two words of what they said, ‘Ghat Kunati’ in Pushto which I rather not translate in Urdu (You can ask your pathan friends out there what it means :p). How can we not mention the little pathan boys here, who call themselves ‘mazdoor’ and who’ll tell you that they’ll carry your stuff for you if you give them a mere five, ten rupees.

This experience is a must I tell you as this is the real Pakistani shopping experience. But unfortunately I think, now Sunday bazaar has lost its cultural and traditional touch

to it!

New and Improved Sunday Bazaar

Recently, Sunday Bazaar just went through a huge improvement to its look. The biggest bachat bazaar in Pakistan is now located in DHA Phase 8, spread over an area of approximately 32 acres of land, twice the size of the old Sunday bazaar with 12 feet wide beautifully filed pathways, weather proof fiber glass roofs, recreational zones for shoppers’ comfort, parking space for 8000 vehicles, with Pakistan’s largest food court spread over an acre providing an unique dining experience, with live DJ, childrenplay area, 90 designed stalls, top multinationals from all over Pakistan showcasing their products and 4 million visitors per annum and much more held twice a week on every Wednesday and Sunday.

Much to the appeal of the customer, there have been benches placed, public toilet

facility available and clean area for saying prayers. A vigilance hut too has been set for security related purposes.

Branding at Sunday Bazaar

The DHA Bachat Bazaar differs from contenders of its like on quite a few forefronts but one which is quite remarkable is the setting up of branded stalls by the companies themselves. These include mostly fast moving consumer goods like Pepsi, Shan Masala, Clear Shampoo, Lifebouy, Head and Shoulders and Molty Foam to name a few. When asked a few of the stallholders confided that some of these stalls had been taken on a rental basis for 6 months-1 year period. Some stalls offered prices which were lower than the market prices in the average grocery store while others like Pepsi offered items at the same market rates. It doesn’t take long for one to realize the preferential treatment given to the branded goods in terms of location of stalls. Located right next to the parking area and on the main entrance, each entrance of the Bachat Bazaar is exposed to branded stalls, which themselves are quite eye catching and portray their brands quite well. On entering, I saw almost all of the branded stalls, advertised well.

Also one of the numerous boards which I read on the boundary of the parking area said “5 million people will read this, advertise your brand here” made me realize that the DHA Bachat Bazaar has increased its scope of customers from households to corporations as well. This goes to show some of the long term planning they have in mind for this bazaar. From publishing a quarter page colored advertisements on the cover pages of leading newspapers such as Dawn and placing billboards around major traffic destinations such as Khayaban-e-Ittehad, they have made quite an effort towards customer awareness.

What’s next?

Thinking of the future of Sunday bazaar, it made me think that have they taken the soul out of the place? Has it lost its intrinsic charm and the sense of mystery that it has always had? I wonder what they will do next. Air condition the place?

Maybe the old place was too dusty, too informal, too disorganized, too difficult to navigate in. But that was part of the fun, wasn’t it? It was a treasure hunt – the intent was not so much to shop but to loiter, to discover, to hang out, to just while away some time – and of course end up buying this and that. It was the informality of the place that gave it heart. This place looks like a tourist flea market. It has lost its essence, the original flavor, and the intricate natural connectedness it had.

But will we stop going there? I don’t think so. We’ll get used to the new and improved, branded Itwaar Bazaar. We will soon start finding reasons to say that in some ways this new Itwaar Bazaar model has its own advantages. We will begin to accept these “improvements” and will perhaps over time forget the orignal Itwaar Bazaar. But for the moment, I miss the old place. It has for me lost its comfy, homely feel. Does everything need be organized? Can’t some things be allowed to just naturally evolve and co-exist in the dusty surroundings which have become a part of our “civilized” environment?

2 Response to "Sunday Bazaar-The Pride of Karachiites"

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