The Karachi Walla was around Lea Market on an assignment. We wanted to show the hustle and bustle around the market in one all encompassing shot. It was not possible to do so while staying at ground level. I walked to the nearest building which has a hotel/bakery opening on the footpath and asked him if we could go to the top of four-storey building. He shook his head and said that the staircase to the top was locked and he did not have key. A friend of mine meanwhile successfully negotiated access to rooftop of an adjacent building.
The access to the building was from the back through a narrow street with a welding shop on one side and a mosque on other. A small door led to inner courtyard of the building. There was a small room right in front of the entrance. The wooden door was locked and had a cricket wicket painted on it. Someone has been spitting pan on the wall from first floor. The wall has been painted many a times with different coats of paint resurfacing here and there. On one side of the door, it seems that the kids have been practicing the initials. The only thing untouched was a straw blind rolled up above the door.
There was a school on ground level which was closed. We climbed the staircases to the top without making a stop. There were plenty of distractions; old tiles, cats and wooden windows but we ignored them for time being and reached to the top but found the door to the rooftop closed. My friend knocked a door and bearded men in his 30s appeared. He asked us purpose of our visit and graciously handed over the key to the door. Few kids noticed us and followed us, looking curiously at our cameras. They told me that all of them studied in the school below except for one who attended a more senior class.
We were all set with our cameras zooming in and out of streets merging in front of Lea Market. The area is very congested and was one of the first areas developed outside walled city of Karachi. I looked for old buildings but sadly there are few including the one we were standing on. Lea Market’s main halls from original layout were perhaps the only stone structure left. There was a maze of streets and hordes of people and million of stories down there. Some of them connecting with mine or yours at some point in life. I had no way of knowing.