LAHORE: Urdu Bazaar is usually swarming with buyers and sellers, horses and donkeys pulling carts, rubbing shoulders with young men on motorcycles who vroom past without a glance on either side. But it was unusually quiet last Tuesday.
Most of the shopkeepers sat huddled in small groups fanning themselves, their faces creased with suspicion as they noticed the camera. This is what three people among them had to say about how they came to be at one of the busiest market places in Lahore.
Muhammad Bashir, 74
“My father migrated to Lahore from Simla in 1947 and got this shop in a settlement claim. His business partner, a Hindu, had owned the shop. He and his family had gone missing during the Partition riots. Hundreds of shops were set on fire at that time. This place was then called Mohan Laal Road. It was renamed Urdu Bazaar in the early 1950s. My two sons and I deal in school books round the year, except in June and July. That is when we deal in paper flags.”
“I predict that the Queen will die in her sleep after September, this year. She will overdose on sleeping pills. Not intentionally, but by mistake. I had correctly predicted this year’s earthquake in Japan. Pakistan will expand and spread from Kabul to Ladakh and PathanKot. I can predict your future, too. But don’t ask me lewd stuff. I am sick of college girls shamelessly asking questions that I cannot answer. I also don’t want to look into your camera.”
Ali Raza, 21
“I sell pre-filled practical note books for science students. They are in huge demand. No one wants to spend an entire year filling out these notebooks when you can get one for Rs250. I always wanted a tattoo on my arms, but because it’s unacceptable, I make do with tattoo sleeves which I got from the Mayo Chowk, Landa Bazaar. By the way, why did you choose me for a photo? I am really shy. Do you want my real name or a false one?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2016.