RAWALPINDI: Every Sehr and Iftar this Ramazan, one place in the city arguably attracted more food lovers than all the other eating places combined — Kartarpura. From pathuras, siri-paye, nihari and chanay to kulfi and lassi, it offered every speciality in traditional continental food that people usually associate only with Lahore. Such places are near impossible to find such in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Yet, the fast-developing food hub failed to grab the authorities’ attention even though it attracted hundreds of customers daily. A single traffic police official had to manage the flow of incoming cars and motorbikes trying to navigate the narrow and congested bazaar, much to the inconvenience of pedestrians.
“What can I do? There is no parking space available close by and people cannot leave their motorbikes unguarded,” said the traffic police constable deployed at the entrance to the street. He said nobody listens to him after the Sehri crowd starts building up in the bazaar soon after midnight.
He was right. When tasty Kalay Khan ki Nihari, khoay walay channay and makhan gujjar ki lassi are on offer, it is hard for any food lover to avoid the place, even when it means ‘playing chicken’ with incoming and outgoing motorbikes.
“There is no better nihari in Pindi than Kalay Khan. It is a perfect treat for Sehri,” said Jawad Ahmed, who was standing in a long queue in front of the famous nihari shop. There were over fifty people ahead of him and more joining the line behind him.
Jawad and his friends said they had to park their car a good kilometre away from Kartarpura bazaar and they walked to the place. “You have to come early if you want to find seats here,” said Bilal Khan, adding that the seating arrangement was too limited so he and his friends would usually go for the take away option.
However, there were others who were ready to go through the hassle of finding a place to sit and eat. “It is this environment that is fun, not just the food,” said Muhammad Saad. He had made plans a day early and came especially from Islamabad to eat at Kartarpura.
Shopkeepers complained they had no space available to make outdoor seating arrangements. “It is the road and that too is very narrow. I cannot place more than two to three tables for four people each outside my shop,” said Shamshad Ahmed, the owner of a food stall, adding that his customers do not like sitting inside as it was hot and space there was also limited too.
Shopkeepers and some visitors wanted motorbikers out of the main bazaar to create space for sitting arrangements and pedestrians, but no one is listening to them.
Only one man doing his business unhindered, the traditional Kulla cap wearing Makhan Gujjar, who was handing out glass over glass of Lassi to people on their way out.
“If a parking space for cars and motorbikes is created, problems with seating arrangements would be resolved and there would be no hassle for people coming here to eat,” said shopkeeper Shamshad, adding that the place could be turned into an easily-accessible food park, not just for Ramazan, all year round.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.
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