Welcome to the STREETS

Written By: Amin Zubair Abbassi

“I am living in London for more then 10 years. At first I thought living here is a fascination and I decided that I would settle here because life here is much better then in Pakistan. I was so wrong. Here, I have everything, a good job, nice place to live, friendly neighbourhood and a peaceful environment and all the facilities which are supposedly not available in Pakistan. But seriously, despite of having all such things, I feel lonely. London has everything a man could desire, but there is one thing which can only be found in Pakistan and that is quality time with friends and family in the local streets. I miss Pakistan for this reason.”

Is it true that this person is actually missing the streets of Pakistan out of all the other things? Does every Pakistani living abroad think that the streets of Pakistan are worth remembering, keeping in mind that these streets are filthy and dangerous? The honest answer would be ‘yes’. Who says that you can enjoy your life to the fullest, once you are out of Pakistan? Try settling overseas and express your feelings after a couple of years. Most probably you would have a feeling similar to the one mentioned above. Hence, the question arises why is it so? What is in the small streets of Pakistan that is emotionally bonded with the Pakistani people?

No matter how it has been perceived, life in the streets is actually the portrait saying what we, the Pakistanis are and it portrays that we are enthusiastic, talented, fun loving creative and most importantly hard working. Many people would be wondering how that can be possible that in the streets we can have such qualities, but believe it or not it is a fact. People have a bad impression of the streets, when asked what can be said about the street life of Pakistan, a person responded, “streets are full of thieves, garbage and beggars. Who would want to go there?” But this is not what a street is made off.

A Street is made up of people living in a particular society. In a street, people share their values to develop a state of oneness and the local residents have a sense of ownership towards it. While walking through a street, you will experience something out of this world. Of course other countries have streets as well which are very fascinating, but each of the streets has a uniqueness making them one of a kind. Hence, streets of Pakistan have exclusive characteristics such as the essence of the location, the aroma of the food made in open air, the noise of the crowd, the feeling of happiness etc.

In a street, you will find almost everything you intend to buy. The most popular streets in Pakistan are “Food Street” in Lahore which is commonly known as “Gawalmandi”, “Bunsroad” in Karachi, “Bolton Market” in Karachi and “Tariq road” again in Karachi. These streets are quite colourful and full of life. Food Street is almost like a tourism spot. Residents of Lahore are very lively and vibrant and they have shown their enthusiasm by making such beautiful streets. When you will take your step in such a lane, you will be mesmerised by the layout of the whole locality. You will be possessed by the aroma of the whole place, especially the smell of food cooked in open air in front of the crowd, making it all tempting and of course mouth watering. There will be all kinds of food cooked in the Pakistani way and with a local taste which cannot be found anywhere else in this world. Simply amazing!

Other than food, the thing that might excite you is the availability of so many items in just one alley. You will find clothes, shoes, stationeries, bookshops, beauty salons and what not. All these items are localised according to the requirements and status of local residents. Meaning, they are all made locally, but are of fair enough quality, with style and relatively price conscious, which is all that the middle class needs.

The best part about a street is the way a shop or a kiosk is decorated, named and marketed. For example, a Pakistani burger (bun kabab) shop will be decorated with a simple stall or a table and a small board will be hung at the top with the name “MASHALLAH Burger” or “Apna Mac Donalds”. This is actually very creative of them to decorate their business in such a way that is not only funny but also eye catching. Local businesses in the streets have mastered the power of word of mouth. They do not use any solid method of promoting what they are selling, but whatever they do, it comes out as profitable. They shout to call people, go to each person in the street and give details about what they are selling or what is in the menu. They are normally quick as they have to cater a huge crowd. They focus more on personal selling then going for any other medium.

Mobile vendors pay a vital contribution in the beauty of a street. Just imagine, a burger shop, clay pot store, clothes’ shop or a vegetable kiosks roaming around so that people can have ease in buying from them without walking much. These mobile vendors are cheaper then the permanent ones. There are all kinds of items a mobile vendor can offer in lower prices and at times with a reasonably good quality.

But before you will buy anything from any of the vendors, you will be surrounded by a group of people which are actually a very important part of any street in Pakistan. These are beggars. You must be wondering what is so good about being surrounded by a group of beggars who are continuously poking you to give them something. Well, there is actually nothing good about them. Seeing a beggar will actually put you under depression. Handicaps and children asking for money is indeed a very depressing sight. But these are very important for any society of the world. Even the most developed nations of the world have a considerate percentage of beggars which forms the whole society. In the streets of Pakistan, these beggars give a flavour. A flavour that can only be realised once you are far away from it.

So, why the concept of Streets is so important for Pakistanis? Answer would be that the street actually depicts the culture of Pakistani residents. It is actually saying what we are and what Pakistanis are all about. This is where we belong. The urban areas of Pakistan are mostly dominated by middle class people; hence, these streets provide them what they desire, because these streets are made by them only. This is the why Pakistanis in abroad miss this life of Pakistan so much.

The whole point of telling you about it is that we all should realise what our true identity is. We can adopt many foreign cultures and we must remember that to the foreigners, we are representing Pakistan and for that, we have to know what are own culture is. And yes, the point of this article is to develop a sense of belonging within our hearts. We own Pakistan and it is our duty to protect it and make it the best country of the world. We have to step forward to change the image as we are not seen as a nation by other countries. We should not loose our identity we just have to change perceptions. We are Pakistanis and we should be proud of it.

1 Response to "Welcome to the STREETS"

  1. tooba May 18, 2010 at 4:29 PM
    it is definitely true that those of us who move abroad do miss these things about pakistan. so what if the streets are dirty? it really doesnt matter because at the end of the day this is where we are brought up, where we are used to living, what we call HOME! people who move from pakistan do not look back and criticise how much trash was lying aorund on the streets, they miss those very streets, the children running and shouting about, the teenagers huddled in one corner, the girls discussing the latest fashions, the ladies gossiping about anything and everything, the lights, the aroma of pakoras and kachoris and samosas, the paan ka khoka at the corner, the dhoodh patti ke dhabay....that is what its all about and that is what people remember and miss.

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