Family time with our grandparents almost always means to hear ancient stories that sound just as mesmerising as fairy tales. We all have heard about merchants coming around, wearing huge turbans, and holding colourful baskets of goods. The doors knocking and the excited children running towards it with the little coins they got to buy accessories for themselves. Today, people do the same job, pushing carts of mouth watering fruits and vegetables, the clay pots and the kulfis that melt in our mouths giving us a moment of relief in the scorching sun. Yet, the tired vendor does not complain about the heat and gives us a heart warming smile when we hand him the 20 RS. That is the beauty of Pakistan and its people. Although we consider street vendors as the non-noble, and the financially weak, each one of us have looked out our balconies at the yellow, heavenly mangoes in the past week and our hearts have craved for it.
The delicious daal chawal, the meetha paan, the dangling bangles and the creative mirror work on the shawls, all speak about the vibrant and unique culture of Pakistan. Talking about the Northern areas of Pakistan, there are stalls for hand woven cloth, shawls, eye catching rugs and carpets, and the iraghi caps with the shati feather on it which just adds on to the beauty. The handmade jewellery boxes and pens with shaped mirrors stuck in glitter are all we need to make our rooms a bit more pleasing and attractive. The Lahori dupattas and the delicate jewellery serves as the major accessory for weddings and festivals. Moreover, the ajrak dresses, the sindhi topis exhibit the culture in its own unique way. This all represents the true colours of Pakistan.
The visit to the Karachi Beach is made special with the hot corns made in the shiny salt and the masaladaar paapar. The gol gappa stalls are always crowded. Vendors take camels and horses aound for rides by the high waves of the sea. Just then children hear the voice of the vendor selling colourful kites and they get one more source of entertainment. Also, there are stalls for small decoration pieces and keychains. The chilled glasses of sugar cane juice are refreshing for the bike riders from the heat. Empress Market and Burns Road are famous vendor spots in Karachi. Weekly Sunday Bazaars or Wednesday Bazaars are major markets for shoppings where good quality goods at cheaper prices are sold on carts. Frere Hall has a grand book sale every Sunday where carts full of interesting and vividly coloured books on all genres are available in affordable costs.
Small ventures do lead to big accomplishments. There have been various success stories all over Pakistan. Asif, a 19 year old boy in Lahore, started a Grill Burger stall with a lifetime dream of opening a business. His triple steak burgers were very famous and caused the surrounding shop to shut down. The owner of the renowned restaurant ‘Student Biryani’ started selling biryani on a cart without a name even. The biryani got famous with the name of the nearby book store and the little business was so successful that now there are many branches all around the world. That is how talent and never giving up leads to ultimate success.
Dignity and respect does not come with the quality of the job but with the hard work it takes to earn the little pay which feeds the families. We do not respect the vendors out there but they do deserve much more than that. They are, after all, the caretakers of the famous, yet inexpensive goods that most of the Pakistani crowd depends on. Street vendors sell the things that portray the real culture of our country. The divine fruits speak for the fertility of our land, the delicate hand work on clothes speak for the creative minds of those that live here, the cooked edibles speak for the tasty spices and flavour enriched in the food and the accessories speak of the amazing fashion sense the people carry with them. During this pandemic, when the entire country is bound under financial crisis, it is our responsibility to think about the vendors who are daily wages workers and find it difficult to meet their needs with such little sale. Thus, we all should, as a nation, do something for them. It may be as little as serving them a glass of water when they pass by our homes and as big as making donations. After all, they are the history living on Pakistan’s streets.