Sunday outing

On Sunday we visited a lovely old palace which is now used as a museum, bought by the municipality and brought back from the brink of decrepitude, the Mohatta Palace Museum. The special exhibit was ‘Labyrinth of Reflections,’ displaying the art of Rashid Rana in the period from 1992-2012. It was a productive period for him with very significant developments. My favorites were an elegant life size carpet that, on closer scrutiny was made up of thousands of tiny photographs of gore and blood; another, a full wall sized bookcase full of old tomes. At closer scrutiny this too was something else, made up from tiny images of modern day Pakistanis – many of his works portraying the sharp contrasts that make up modern Pakistan.

Afterwards we drove eastwards out of town towards the famous Sunday Bazar. We drove along gridlines with ever fewer houses on them, the city making way for the dessert – the infrastructure in place but few people with the money to buy the expensive land. The people who could may have moved their money to Dubai or other safer havens. A large development project stood sadly by itself, promising a Dubai like skyline but the image a mirage as the work had stopped.

At the Sunday Bazar you can find anything second hand (and some new). There are toys, housewares, shoes, clothing, bedding and stuff that has, I imagine, has fallen off military trucks, especially in Afghanistan. Many of the decorative textiles I recognized from the kind that I bought on Chicken Street for four times the price. So this is where the Afghans get their stuff!

My colleague found an old quilt, probably from the period between the world wars, in pristine condition. We wondered how it had gotten there – probably packed up as part of the closing down of grandma or grandpa’s house, somewhere in the US – stuck between clothes and bedding in a container shipped to Pakistan. We haggled with eager salesmen about Kashmiri shawls and rugs. I gave in too quickly, knowing only Kabul and Dubai prices.

We completed this third and probably last escapade with a return to the mall as we managed to want lunch in the dead period between brunch and high tea. We knew the food court to always be open. We lined up with lots of other cars to enter the parking garage. The place was filled with families. On Sundays the mall organizes family events, characterized by much franticness and loud thumping music.

I noticed that Burger King was the most popular place, even more popular than McDonalds at the other end of the fast food line up. This time we tried out Turkish fast food. We had lahmacun, shish tavuk, chicken kofta and ayran (somewhat like lassi). It was quite tasty. We sat amidst hundreds of families, no one paying us any attention, even though I believe we were the only ones visibly not from around here. I marveled at the freedom, especially of women – it is a bit like Dubai, anything goes: tee shirts, jeans, fully veiled black clad-women, unveiled women in long flowery shalwar kameezes and men in all sorts of outfits. No one blinked an eye – everyone living and letting live. I can now see why Afghan women who lived in Pakistan have a hard time adjusting to the restrictions in their homeland.

Our host saw to it that we left with good impressions of Karachi and Pakistanis. He succeeded so well that we requested a bumper sticker ‘I Love Pakistan.’ Of course then we thought where we’d put it back home. Once I started to think about it, the sticker wasn’t really what I wanted. What we did want was an experience with ordinary Pakistanis. And that’s exactly what we got.

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October 2013
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