Landa bazaar: More than just poverty, heat and mud
Here, I came across a shop that had existed even before partition. It had been a part of both Pakistan and India.
At the heart of the cultural hub of Pakistan lies the decades old ‘Landa bazaar’. To some it is but a crowded alley of poverty and inexpensive counterfeits; to others, it is a source of sustainable livelihood that bridges the class divide through duplicity.
To me, as a student of photojournalism, it is much more than the former or the latter.
The bazaar is an important aspect of our diminishing culture; a sea of faces, a juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporary, and a true depiction of what Pakistan is beyond the urban comforts.
To people who are used to swirling around in a circle of monotony every day, I was deeply interested and curious when I came to Landa Bazaar.
Quite visibly different from the regular crowd, some people asked me whether I belonged to a news channel. Some warily demanded to know whether I was an undercover police agent - their pulse undoubtedly quickening with anticipation and worry while they awaited an answer and contemplated the fate of the goods they had managed to smuggle.
Some simply gazed my way, keeping mum and letting their eyes speak the words their lips left unsaid - 'who are you and why are you here?'.
I learnt that surprisingly, some shops that had been set up well before Pakistan came into being were still up and running! Seth Adam Ji Abdullah ‘Bambaii Waalay’ was one such shop that had witnessed the partition of the subcontinent and had existed in both the lands - India and Pakistan. The man handling the little bookshop was aged and wizened, with an air of one who’d seen much in life.
“This shop was set up by my great-grandfather,” he stuttered.
“I work here, simply, to continue his legacy.”
The books he sold were of a diverse nature but regional folklore and doctrinal volumes made up most of them. It was interesting to note how both culture and religion, though at odds throughout the turbulent history of Pakistan, were coexisting peacefully under the same roof, on the same table.
I witnessed the sale of almost all items and essentials - second hand or otherwise, catering to everyday needs and necessities - at Landa Bazaar. From clothes to jewellery, cutlery to foodstuff, mobile phones to currencies - you name it, they’ve got it.
The roofs of the shops selling these items are lined and rusted. The age old houses with their brown doors and yellowed, brittle walls portray a sense of timelessness. The only additions giving them a partly modern feel are the coolers and ACs attached to a select few.
To the inhabitants of Landa Bazaar life hasn't changed much and the true beauty of this bazaar can only be unravelled if one looks below the surface.
Let us be the ones to appreciate Landa bazaar for reasons other than congestion, heat, mud and poverty; let us look beyond the urban soul and get lost in the ageless splendour of the other side of Pakistan’s cultural metropolis.