Surreal. There is something with this setting which makes it surreal. The street in question is just another street at Regal Chowk, full of saddar-esque trash, dirt and overflowing sewerage water. There are shops selling everything from a transistor to the promise of a lustful life. There is not anything spectacular about this street. It would not qualify for a post. It is yet another street.
But not on a Sunday morning.
Booksellers, Book lovers, Bookworms, Food vendors, rickshaw wala flock in from various parts of Karachi to the unlikely refuge for second hand books. The show starts by nine o clock. Few booksellers set their shops on thailas while others put priceless pieces over makeshift floor-mats. They sell everything: from Dickens to Ghalib, from Sidney Sheldon to Jalib, from Ghazali to Opportunist writers. All the books are second hand or possibly much more hands have changed before books find their way here. Most of the booksellers have tiny shops across the city. They have been gathering on Sundays for years. They ended up at Regal Chowk after they were thrown out of Frere hall in early 2000s. Even after American Embassy’s departure, Frere hall stays off-limits for the books and whole supply chain.
If you are coming from Clifton then take the street which passes through zainab market. Go straight and turn left at regal chowk. Turn into second street on your left. Its better to park your car outside the street as it gets crowded immediately. You will find few food stalls on your left. Have a sip of hot tea or have chola plate. Depending on the time of your visit, you will find twenty to forty book stalls. Few of them sell whatever they find, others specialize in specific genres. You may find publications as old as eighty years. They have the smell of times gone by. Take a little time before indulging yourself in the books. Look sideways and feel the surrealistic scene. The street is not cleaned after a busy weekend night. Trash flies here and there. It bears no impact over visitors. They get indulged the moment they come in. Parents suggesting titles to children. Children suggesting titles to parents. Women falling over digests and novels. School Boys getting stuck over film magazines.
All of it on a Sunday morning at Regal Chowk.