KARACHI: A stone’s throw from Gurumandir is the neighbourhood of Teen Hatti where some things have changed and others remained constant. For example, it was named Teen Hatti because three or teen roads met at the intersection, or hit. Hatti is the Hindi word for hit. Today, there are four roads that intersect here.
What has not changed is the business of the neighbourhood, which is home to the largest wholesale flower market in the country.
Haji Sahib, who has been in the business for over 30 years, said that they bring in flowers from Hyderabad every day. “Some of the flowers are grown on the outskirts of the city,” he said. “But for some we have to go to Hyderabad or Punjab. It all depends.” This business has daily ups and downs. “You never know how much you’re going to make at the end of the day.”
The market is open from 10am to 1pm every day.
While pointing at the fresh roses behind him, Haji Sahib said that a bunch could cost anything from Rs20 to Rs35, depending on the quality. “These hotels and flower shop owners buy from us in bulk and then sell them for four times the cost,” he said. “For example, they sell 12 tuberoses for Rs300 in Gizri, here we sell them for Rs75 or Rs100.”
Arshad, who runs his father’s flower shop, said that the good quality flowers were gone within minutes. “People usually inform us about what they want the night before,” he said. “The flowers, the quantity and other things are sorted before we leave work so when we place an order, it gets in on time. It is wonderful to smell the roses in the morning. It is one of my favourite things about this business. There is so much pollution and dread in the atmosphere of this city, a dozen roses in your house can help you get through the day.”
Besides the sweet-smelling flower market, Teen Hatti also has its very own Kaffan wala, not to be mistaken for a coffin wala. Abdul Qadir’s son, who has been running the shop for six years, claimed that his father has been in the business for over 50 years. “He opened this shop soon after Partition,” he said. “For 80 rupees we give people everything they need to bury the dead. From cotton, cloth, salt, sandal, soap and a chattai, we pack it all and also deliver it when needed.” The shop has no fixed timings and even receives calls at 3am.
“People don’t have a specific time to die,” he said, while brushing his daughter’s hair. His children have been working with him at the shop since they could walk. “This is the family business and it is good for them to learn these things now, rather than later.” While talking about how much he made in a day, he said it varied. “Sometimes the target killings go through the roof,” he said. “If the victim is from the neighbourhood then it becomes my responsibility, otherwise people rely on rescue services.”
For spiritual guidance, many residents flock to the Syed Noor Ali Shaheed Mazaar just five minutes away from the flower market. The saint, who the mazaar was built for, came to Karachi with Muhammad Bin Qasim. The man who manages shoes at the mazaar said that the saint was a shaheed and drew believers from Oman and Africa. “The urs is usually held in Muharram,” said the Gaddi Nasheen. “We don’t have much security, just ask the police station down the street to help out.” A qawwali is held at the mazaar every Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.