ISLAMABAD: The rush of customers at eateries in the narrow, old lanes of Kartarpura will have you fooled into thinking that it is eight o’ clock on a weekend when it is, in fact, three in the morning in the middle of the week.
One of the older food streets in Rawalpindi, the market is thronged by local residents and by people from as far afield as Murree, Hasanabdal, Taxila and even Gujjar Khan who line up to get hearty, sumptuous traditional meals for their sehri.
The menu includes traditional dishes such as Nihari, Chotay Paye (goat trotters) Makhan Channay, Qeema Naan (mince and bread), Bakarkhaanis, Lassi (Buttermilk) and other traditional fares.
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The area, which once used to be teeming with the resident Sikh community — who developed much of Rawalpindi and surrounding areas under the reign of Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh. Once a key business district, today the area has become a food street.
Some of the cultural elements of the era gone by can be seen in the traditional way lassi (buttermilk) is prepared here, with some stores preferring the old manual method to mechanized blenders.
Some storekeepers choose to re-live the old times by trimming their moustache and beard like a Mughal court attendant while donning a tall turban and with strings of beads hanging around their neck.
However, despite its popularity as a favourite haunt for lovers of traditional foods, some vendors of the area were not satisfied with the arrangements made by the district administration.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, some vendors, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retribution by the district administration, complained that things along the food street were mismanaged which posed a problem not only for them but also for visitors.
“The [district] administration says that maintaining cleanliness is our responsibility if we are running a shop,” a shopkeeper said, expressing his disbelief at the district administrations statement. He insisted that if the streets in front of their stores were properly and regularly cleaned, it could help bring in more customers.
The vendor continued that a large number of senior government officials, religious scholars and even high-profile politicians frequent the food street but the police were unconcerned with making proper security arrangements in the area and had left it at the mercy of street criminals.
Friends Adnan Ahmed, Nafees Ahmed and others when asked why they chose to visit the place so early in the morning, said that the type and quality of traditional foods available at Karatarpura were matchless.
The only gripe they had was that the vendors appeared to have hiked prices for Ramazan. They lamented the absence of any check and balance from the district administration on either price or quality of food.
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They asked whether it was morally right to earn illicit profits during the holy month of Ramazan.
“Governments around the Muslim world cut down prices on everything during the holy month of Ramazan, but here, it was the opposite and the regulators only considered VIP duties as their job,” they said. Echoing sentiments of the vendors, the group of friends complained about the lack of cleanliness in the food street, adding that general cleanliness and good hygiene was the basis of running successful food businesses.
Moreover, they complained that there was no proper parking space for visitors which made the entire experience of travelling to Karatarpura cumbersome and tedious. They demanded that the district administration take measures to improve the market and make it more people-friendly.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2019.