Meena Bazaar retains its original charm

For decades Meena Bazaar has been a must-visit place for brides-to-be before their wedding day.

Saadia Qamar October 06, 2010

KARACHI: Meena Bazaar is part of Karachi’s cultural fabric. For decades it was a must-visit place for brides-to-be before their wedding day, and for girls on Chand Raat to have mehndi applied on their hands.

Located in a building in Karimabad, Meena Bazaar still retains some of its original charm.

Malika, who is in her 50s, told The Express Tribune that she opened her salon almost 18 years ago at Meena Bazaar. “My husband died 20 years back and I needed to earn for my six children - including my five daughters - so I opted for this profession.”

Today her salon offers mehndi application for brides and other girls, as well as services such as facials.  Malika says her salon has “not been hit by the recession as old customers from far flung areas of the city still visit the place.”

Malika proudly asserts that the salon has generated so much revenue that she has been able to bear the cost of five of her children’s weddings.

“Since this is the peak season (for weddings) there’s a steady stream of women who want mehndi applied. Even American women come here to see what the place looks like.”

Malika says, “I am happy with the way things are at Meena Bazaar. We have security and the building has been tiled with marble. There were generators installed before Eid this year so there were no blackouts that would inconvenience clients.”

The work of women at Meena Bazaar also made its way to the Fashion Pakistan Week runway in 2009, as designer Syed Rizwanullah employed workers from the market to paint designs on fabric. He told The Express Tribune, “I always wanted to do something original. It was my 10-year-old sister’s idea. During Eid, I was wearing a white outfit and my sister had mehndi on her hand and when she touched my kameez, it left a mark which I thought was beautiful. During the runway show, people thought it was embroidery but since it fell on the ground, it was actually mehndi. My idea was that fashion is an illusion. I had these girls mingle with my karigaars and apply mehndi on the dresses. People still remember me from that show and I had people calling me up from France and India to inquire about the designs.”

However, the inflow of clients to Meena Bazaar was affected after rumours spread in the city that women applying mehndi would also surreptitiously engage in palmistry.

Surriya Perveen of Saima Beauty Parlour has a different story to tell. “I have two school-going children. My husband works in the hosiery market and in this day and age it is difficult to make ends meet. Earlier, I was sending my children to a privately-run school, but because of the increase in expenses I enrolled them in a government-run school.

None of the lights were switched on at Saima Beauty Parlour. Perveen said, “I did not have a single customer today which is why it bears a forlon look..”

Men are still barred from visiting Meena Bazaar, but one man was seen on the floor. When questioned, Perveen said, “From 2 to 4 pm men can visit the place; otherwise it is heavily guarded and a secure place for the poor and needy working women of the city.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2010.


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