There is more to Malir than the cantonment, courts and the April 6 bomb blast. There is the river, lush green fields and so much more.
A string of private hospital and clinics marks the entrance of the town after about a 20-minute drive from the airport. Across the hospitals is a row of meat shops, their owners waiting for customers. Nearby, a long line of men, women and children stand in single file at Rashid’s watermelon juice stand, with crisp Rs20 notes to quench their thirst.
Then came Liaquat Market, which the residents claim is the biggest market in Asia. It has everything, from floor tiles, wrought iron bed frames, steel doors, different varieties of car oil, auto spare parts and furniture – and that too at very reasonable prices. Further ahead, there are men selling water and hay, and chopping wood.
Aleem, who works for a ‘seth sahib’, said that it took him around 40 minutes to chop up a tree.
On an average he cuts three to four trees a day but it can change depending on how many people are working with him. Aleem’s wife and daughter peeked from the curtain which separated his home from the workplace. Most of the timber was cut up into short logs and sold for two rupees per kilogramme. Aleem worked on an order-based system. The client placed orders with the seth asking for the wood to be cut in specific dimensions.
Malir seems to have its own public transport system in the form of black and yellow six-seater rickshaws. But unlike the unruly public buses this rickshaw has designated stops for passengers.
One of the drivers of the indigenous rickshaw, Mohammad Ali, said that he earned enough to keep his families content. “My children always have their bellies full and my wife always has a new jora every month,” he said. “We would obviously like to do more business but it would be expensive to expand our work.”
Going further along the Liaquat Market brings us to Saudabad. Here, two things which stood out were the shops where number plates were made and fresh-juice stalls. Sikandar, an artist, owned a shop with his brother. He hails from Multan and has been in the business for around 30 years, during which he claims that there wasn’t a dull day.
His most memorable work was for a Pakhtun trader’s new 250CC motorcycle. The number plate was painted with acrylic paints and was three centimetres thick. “The man wanted it to be the coolest number plate in Malir,” said Sikandar, grinning widely as he recalled the number-plate enthusiast. “I charged him Rs2,500 and he wanted to give me more because he loved it so much. But he came back to me two days later and asked for a simple one because the police were giving him a hard time since fancy number plates were illegal. So he wanted a simple steel one for work and the fancy one for roaming around Malir.”
Saudabad’s main bazaar is another 10 to 15 minutes down the road. Nadeem has been selling sugar-cane juice for the past 35 years. He remembers the time when he used to sell a chilled glass of pure sugar-cane juice for only Rs5. But he said that with time he had to increase the price and also dilute the juice.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.
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