Thursday, 5 January 2012

Pinjra gali.

The crater at the mouth of "Pinjra Gali" -- the lane of Empress Market that sold nothing but cages--didn't bother Aslam anymore. He was used to the bump that welcomed him to work every morning. He would carefully drive his Honda 70 over the bump and snake his way past wooden cages that shopkeepers displayed outside their tiny shops. The tyres of his bike would paint a trail of water all the way to his shop after running over the spillage from Mubeen bhai's leaking water cooler. He'd wave to Saleem Bhai, nod to Bashir Bhai and toss a candy to Farooq, more commonly known as Pappu. The ten year old would catch the piece of candy and follow Aslam to his shop.

Even after twenty years of being built, Pinjra Gali was exactly the same. Narrow, smelly and crammed with cages, Pinjra gali was one of the few places in Karachi that flaunted the best tea-- not cages. Like the Qissa Khawani Bazar in Peshawer and Anarkali in Lahore, Pinjra Gali was a miniature example of a historic site known less for what it sold and more for its tea, cheap fly-infested food and story tellers.

Aslam, like everyday, raised the shutter of his shop, muttered a prayer under his breath and then stepped into his shop. He picked up an old rag and wiped the layer of dust off his hand-made masterpieces. Aslam turned to the wall opposite the entrance that was adorned with a single frame. Even after five years, the sight of his parents caused a momentary stillness around him as if the earth stopped spinning and time had paused long enough for him to travel back to that night and return to Pinjra gali.