SUKKUR: “Baji, yeh Pathan ka zaban hai. Pachas rupya se ek paisa kam nahi hoga,” Khan Mohammad Pathan - who sells old clothes at a kiosk on a walkway near Neem Ki Chari - angrily told a woman who wanted to buy a jacket for her son.
As the jacket appeared to be in a good condition, Pathan refused to sell it for anything less than Rs50 while the woman insisted that Rs40 was a fair price.
Every year in the winter, the walkway behind the Government Girls High School in Sukkur is home to a number of kiosks run by peddlers who deal in old winter clothing, accessories, footwear, electronic items and even used crockery. People from across the city gather at these kiosks to buy old sweaters and other items for themselves and their families.
The annual congregation to this walkway has become so regular and popular that it has taken the shape of an annual bazaar, commonly referred to as the Lunda Bazaar.
Like other businesses across the city, kiosks at the Lunda Bazaar have also been hit by inflation, forcing the prices of used clothes to go up.
Pathan, who hails from Quetta, has been setting up his kiosk for the past 12 years. Talking to The Express Tribune, he said that inflation has “affected every sphere of life”, adding that while a large bag of sweaters could earlier be bought for Rs18,000 from a market in Karachi, it now costs Rs30,000.
“After purchasing these bags, we bring them to Sukkur in a truck, which currently takes Rs1,300 per bag while earlier it used to take between Rs300 and Rs350 per bag,” Pathan said, asking “Hum mehanga maal khareed ke sasta kaisay bechay ga? Hum jis sweater ka pachas rupya mangta hai, log uska bees rupya bolta hai.”
While sorting through the bags that came from Karachi, Pathan said that he had found many torn and tattered sweaters and jackets as well.
“Nobody is ready to buy these sweaters and jackets, even for Rs10,” he added. Business has been very slow this year, he said, blaming it on the increase in prices. “Ab gharib log yeh bhi nahi khareed sakta, naye ka baat to choro,” he said as an elderly woman bargained her way into buying a sweater for Rs20 from his shop. Pathan, who had initially demanded Rs30 for the sweater, eventually agreed to selling it for Rs20 after the woman said she was buying it for her newborn grandson.
Mohammad Naeem Brohi, another shopkeeper who hails from Quetta, told The Express Tribune that while his family had been in the business of selling used clothes since the time of his “forefathers”, the annual increase in prices was making it tougher by the year.
“A bag of 1,000 sweaters costs Rs30,000 while a bag of 300 jackets costs Rs50,000. Earlier, the latter was available for Rs30,000 as well,” he said. “A good jacket is sold for between Rs250 and Rs300 while a good sweater is sold for between Rs50 and Rs80,” said Brohi, who also complained of “very slow business” this year.
Similarly, last year the Taluka Municipal Administration used to charge each shopkeeper Rs4 per day while it is now taking between Rs10 and Rs20 per day from each shopkeeper, he added.
“The prices of all essential commodities have sky-rocketed and it has become next to impossible for people to make both ends meet,” said Mohammad Ayub, who has also been running a kiosk on the walkway for the last 35 years.
“Everything was so cheap in the 60s. Everyone was able to meet the daily expenses without any difficulty,” he said, recalling that even though a labourer earned between Rs2 and Rs3 in one day at that time, he was able to purchase the necessary commodities and was able to save a little. “Now a labourer gets between Rs200 and Rs250 per day, but leads a miserable life,” he said, adding, “Hukumat bolta tha ke gharib ko roti, kapra aur makaan dega, par abhi to roti bhi naseeb nahi.”
Meanwhile, Ayub claimed that it had also become very difficult for people, especially for women, to come to his shop because it is on a main road with heavy traffic and a large number of pedestrians.
“Many people belonging to the middle class and even the upper-middle class feel embarrassed while visiting our shops, probably due to fear of some acquaintance seeing them buy old winter clothes,” he said, demanding, “The government should provide us with a place where we can conduct our business peacefully.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2010.