A Walk through Karachi’s Empress Market

Owais Mughal

On my recent trip to Pakistan, I tried to re-live some of the fondest memories of my early youth. One of them was daily travel in public buses during my college days. In order to relive that experience, I decided to take a trip to Empress Market by bus.

Photo to the left shows Empress Market. I took this photo from the overhead pedestrain bridge on the morning of Jan 11, 2007.

At Karaimabad market bus stop, I made a hand gesture to an approaching route 5C bus. The bus driver made eye contact with me and acknowledged by slowing down. The norm in Karachi is that a bus never comes to a full halt for a single ‘sawari’ (passenger) because monetary profits from a single passenger fare is not worth breaking the engine motion. Therefore when bus slowed down to a speed of approximately 5 kmph, I quickly jumped in by grabbing on to the hand rail. It was a proud moment for me to realize that after all these years I have not forgotten the art of climbing onto a moving bus. I looked around the bus with the face of a conquerer but no one paid any attention to me so I meekly sat down at the first available seat.

Photo to the above right shows birds eye view of Empress Market. This photo is courtesy of Ali Zasami. Continue reading

In the Land of Kunhar

Owais Mughal

It was August 1992 and the second year exams at NED’s Electrical Department had just finished. To celebrate the big relief that came after hard work of many months, my friend Umar and I decided to go to Northern Pakistan for vacations. On the day of departure we reached the cantonment railway station. We had first class seats resrved in Tezrau (fast current) express. After we settled down in our compartment and looked around, we found some interesting co-travellers. They included an all-obese family of Karachi, going Muree for vacations. Then there was a Khan of Gilgit going home. He spoke very funny e.g. when he tried to describe a short and healthy person on the train and said:

” woh hai na….woh chota waala, mota waala” (You see him…. that small one and healthy one)

Then there was this fruit lover person sitting next to us. He sampled fruits from each and every vendor that came on the train. In a day’s journey, he almost ate a garden full of fruits. So much so that before our train reached Rawalpindi he had developed food poisoning.

We also had two poet brothers as our companion. All through the journey they kept reading poetry books and occassionally moved their heads from right to left in ecstasy. This was the sign that they understood a ‘sher’ (couplet).

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Ziarat ke zaair

Owais Mughal

It was September 1991. Along with two of my good friends; Umar Shah and Nauman; I was vacationing in Quetta. After exploring Quetta for two days, we decided to have a day trip to Ziarat. Little did we know that we were in for a travel treat, and hence this post.
On the day of travel to Ziarat, three of us sat on the back seat of a rickshaw and asked the rickshaw pilot to take us to the Quetta bus adda (station). This bus adda was a sea of rudderless machinery and chaotic humanity. There were wagons and buses going to all parts of the country. There were hot soup sellers sitting on the ground and electronics sellers bargaining and then agreeing to sell their merachandise at 1% of the originally asked price.

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khadda hai

Owais Mughal

The term ‘khadda hai’ – which literally means a pot hole, is used for the cricketers who are bad in fielding or batting. In the streets where I grew up, a usual spoken sentence went like this:

ye fielder to bilkul khadda hai – halwa catch chor dia (This fielder is a pot hole – dropped an easy catch)

Now let us go to our main story where lesson of the day is going to be: Respect is earned and not commanded.

In eighth grade we had an English teacher who had perfected the art of disciplining the students. His technique was to use pieces of chalk as projectiles and hit any of us suspected of talking or any other petty mischief in the class.

Over the years his aim had become so perfect that he rarely missed his target. The chalk pieces though small in size were thrown with high speeds and therefore hit our heads with very high momentum. We derided getting hit by a piece of chalk and the discipline in class was thus maintained.

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Of Mad Dogs and Yamaha 50s

Owais Mughal

Many years ago, before I became a proud owner of Yamaha 100, I used to have a Yamaha 50. It was red in color and many a times the person riding on it also used to get shades of red. These red shades sometimes came in anger and sometimes as blushes. This motorcycle made sure that its rider always remained humble.

During my high school years, poetry of Allama Iqbal became part of our compulsory Urdu course. Almost in every Urdu class our teacher used to make us think about Allama Iqbal’s philosophy of ‘khudi’ (ego). I tried my level best to understand it but whenever I sat on my Yamaha 50, my belief in ‘khudi’ always went lower than before. This motorcycle was more a like a case of ‘be-khudi’ (no self control).

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Print Ads From Pakistan of the 1950s

Owais Mughal

I own a copy of Pakistan Railway’s time table published in November of 1959. Besides train timings, it has a section of advertisements which is a great glimpse into our national past. I’ve selected following eight advertisements from this publication. Some of the brands advertised here are still in the market.

For good or bad a lot has obviously changed in the past 48 years. Not just in how the adverts were drawn and presented, but also in what was drawn and presented within them. It is a nice drive down memory lane.

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Adamjee Science College, Karachi

Owais Mughal

Following is something I wrote 20 years ago for Adamjee College’s annual Magazine. Time flies guys! While going through my stuff today, I found the magazine and thought of sharing the article here. Pardon me if some of the write up appears too lame in 2008. Imagine that I was just a first year teenage student then. While some of the text may appear to be sarcasm, I am very proud of my college and I hope many of our readers will be able to relate to their college life in Pakistan.


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