KARACHI: If you’re getting married in a month and shopping on a budget, there is only one place in Karachi which will solve all your problems. Liaquatabad Market, which your grandmother will know as Lalu Khet.
Mohammad Nasir, who runs a bridal couture shop in Noor Shopping Mall, told The Express Tribune that shopping in Lalu Khet was more than just an experience. “These used to be fields, you know, never-ending green fields,” he said, “But look at how commercial it has become.” His father used to joke that the area was owned by a man named Lalu and as fields are called khet in Urdu, the neighbourhood became Lalu Khet.
People come here from all over the city to shop because, as Karachi has expanded it has become central than Saddar. “For women and young girls who live in New Karachi, Gulshan, Sohrab Goth or North Nazimabad, we are better than Zamzama or Tariq Road,” Nasir added. His shop sells some of the more expensive clothes as the cheapest wedding outfit has a price tag of Rs10,000 and the most expensive one Rs25,000.
Salim, who sells lemonade outside Nasir’s shop, said that he started working a couple of years ago by marketing a chilled glass of tangy lemonade for Rs10. He is friends with Aleem, who sells Mehndi or henna, uptan or homemade masks, oil and decorative thalis for dholaks and other pre-wedding events. “I do not go to buy these things, my seth does, usually in bulk from shops in Saddar,” he said. “We sell khuli mehndi or loose henna powder for Rs100 and the packaged ones for Rs250. The same goes for the uptan.” According to him, the women prefer to buy the packaged ones because they are better quality.” They make thalis on request for Rs1,200 at most.
Baba sahib, who has been in the bridal couture business for more than 50 years, said that these days business was bad but they earned the most in August. “The weather is pleasant and everyone wants to get married in that month,” he said. “December isn’t a bad month for business either but you know people are careful that none of the events fall in the holy month of Muharram.”
While talking about the intricate embroidery on the dresses, he said that they got the work done cheap but it was of good quality. “You can find these patterns in Tariq Road and other places too, but they will charge you five times more,” he said as he sat on a floor cushion in his shop. “Unlike everyone else, we have wedding clothes in all colours, patterns, sizes and price ranges.”
And if you get hungry while searching for the perfect outfit, you can stop by Ozair’s for acchar. His father started the business 30 years ago. He boasted that they had all kinds of pickles from the famous Hyderabadi to mango, onion, garlic and lemon. “We sell most of them for about Rs40 per half a kilogramme,” he said. “I am not sure about how many customers we get every day but we have a lot of regulars who just keep coming back.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.