City Portraits – Eid-Card Seller of Paper Market

Karachi is known as city of lights but the lights remain pretty dim year long. However Ramadan is an exception and the city rebuilds it’s reputation with lights in the month of blessings. The quiet corners and dark alleys get a makeover, sometimes for setting up food stalls or at others for hosting night cricket or an impromptu roadside mela consisting of various rides. Javed sets up an Eid-card stall every year near Paper Market on Sharah-e-liaquat. He lights up a quiet corner under a pretty building painted pink. His stall from a distance looks like a scene from Edward Hopper’s world.

Javed loves to talk. I need few envelopes and the transaction takes few seconds only but we find one topic after another. He works with a printing press in regular days and sets up a stall in Ramadan only. The business picks up after first ten days and most of the people drop at his stall around mid-night. I look at my watch and it is still a quarter past ten and the traffic around Sharah-liaquat is only starting to build. Karachi has a vibrant nightlife but it cannot be compared to anywhere else or else you are bound to get disappointed. Karachi can never be your Instagram perfect city.

Few days back I met a nursery wala whose son and daughter were studying architecture and landscape design in Australia. Javed’s daughter has done graduation in Mass communication and has worked for a newspaper. This is what endears Karachi to millions. It provides opportunity of social mobility which other cities in Pakistan fail to. In this age of expensive pre-schools and grammar schools, the barriers to social mobility are up way too early in one’s career. Karachi somehow still provides platform to launch millions of them. It truly is a megalopolis – of 20 million dreams.

Javed orders for tea which never materializes. He tells me that the most expensive Eid-Card in his inventory is for Rs. 250. The median price is Rs. 100. The cards are flashy, red and have some sort of 3d feature. A kid is helping him run the shop. He tells me that he is son of the owner of business he works for. I ask them for a photo. They sit next to each other, Javed laughing as his disciples holds breath till I click the camera.

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Categories: City Portraits

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