Meet Ansar. The Man who sells Nostalgia. He runs a shop in Saddar’s Antique Market and his collection of radios and turntables dwarf everyone else’s in the city.
I have been looking for a turntable since I inherited a ceramic records collection from my grandfather. A friend recommended me to visit Antique Market in Saddar. I went there on a Saturday only to find two odd gramophones in dire condition. But then someone told me about Ansar, whose shop is a the end of the market. They told me that he was the one specializing in radios, records and turntables. The shop was closed. I read up Ansar’s number off the signboard and called him up. After listening to a devotional ringtone for sometime, I heard his voice. There was a lot of background noise and all I could comprehend that he was due at his shop in few minutes.
A little later, a fragile old man with trimmed white beard and cap, wearing a shalwar kameez appeared from the narrow lane. He greeted me and asked me to help take his shop’s shutter up. I held my excitement as the shutter went up. The tiny shop was full of memorabilia; ancient radios, turntables, televisions and records. As I grasped the moment, Ansar started moving turntables out and make room to move through the shop.
To the right, on one of the shelf, I found dozens of vinyl and ceramic records. As I browsed through the collection, I felt my hands shaking with the excitement. While his collection in English was forgetful, I could see albums of some memorable Hindi movies and subcontinent artists. Hum dono, Guide, Pakeezah, Amar Prem, Love Story to name a few movies and Geeta Dutt, KL Saigol, Rafi, Kishore, Ravi Shankar, Sabri Qawwal to name a few artists.
I picked up few records and bid farewell to Ansar and promised him that I would come back soon. Few days later I visited him again. This time I found him repairing a reel to reel tape player. It took him a while but the screws finally fitted in place and player started playing famous Hindi tune. He jumped off his seat and shouted, “It works! it works!”. He walked from one end of the lane to the other, trying to contain his excitement. I could sense pride in his stride. One of the shopkeepers asked him to turn the volume down. He turned back and told him that he would not, for that’s his job, fixing the vintage and listening to the classics.
We sat down in front of his shop. He told me that he ran the business out of sheer passion. “Array mere paas sab kuch hai Allah ka diya, yeh tu shoq hai mera bachpan se“. He was not a mere technician but a shrewd salesman also. He convinced me to buy a Grundig turntable. Sensing my preferences, he adjusted few things here and there, more of a jugaad than a permanent fix. “Array buhut kam laga raha haoon mein, yeh teak ka buna hai“, there he convinced me to buy another, a Philco turntable with teak frame.
He happily posed for the photos, taking pride in showing off his collection. He told me that a British Correspondent had documented his shop sometime back. He never knew if it got published. “I have 5000 or more records at my home. Come back next time and I will bring them over”, he proudly said. He told me that he has a wide array of clientele, with people contacting him from Larkana to Peshawar.
“Look at these sophisticated machines, someone must have kept them with utmost care all his life only to be sold later to antique sellers”, he said wistfully, as we loaded the turntables in Suzuki carry.
What would happen to this shop after you”, I asked.
He did not respond and waved his hand.