Prince Copy

Owais Mughal

I took this photo last week while walking down a street in Karachi. The business is called Prince Powder Copy. It is a photostat (Xerox) business. I have been making copies here since my childhood. The business still operates on a single photo copy machine as it did quarter of a century ago. Last week I found a teenage boy making copies here and after I talked to him, I came to know it was his father who used to make copies for me when I was in my school, college and university days.

Another advancement this business seems to have made is the Powder Copy machine – duely advertised on the sign board – which makes darker and finer copies than non-powdered machine which current owner’s father used to operate.

As I read the sign board – and I’ll request our readership to read again – several emotions go through me within seconds. One can do nothing but appreciate the marketing opportunity these guys have availed from the curse of power outages in Pakistan. Notice a small addition to top-right of the main sign board which reads ‘In case of power outage, we make copies from the Generator’.

While the marketing message is clear, the simplicity of people and the common street language used in this part of the world also reflects on the sign board. Note the Urdu spellings of word Generator – spelled to be pronounced as ‘Ganaytor’ and the word ‘Ganaytor ki Light’ used for ‘Generator ki bijli’ (Electricity produced by a Generator ). While a part of me smiled at these mistakes of literary language, another part of me appreciated the simplicity of our people who managed to market their ‘Generator’ investment to their advantage.

Also note how the ‘1 Rupee per Copy’ rates have been circled on the signboard. This price probably hasn’t changed in the past 25 years. I remember when Powder Copy was first introduced it used to cost Rupee 1, then it got reduced to 50 paisa per copy and today it is back to where it started 25 years ago.

The signboard also advertised a Public Call Office (PCO) and a ‘Painters’ business. These are the businesses next to Prince Copy and probably shared the advertisement cost by getting space on a mutual signboard.

The partially visible red spray painted graffitti on the KESC owned transformer behind the sign board reads ‘jiye Zardari – amn ho ya jang – Zardari ke sang’ – This is another story and another emotion that passed through me as I was looking through this photo. Talk about the insecurities of our leaders and their supporters – which is possibly a topic for a separate
post.

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