RAWALPINDI, July 1: A new business - ‘fanning’ - has taken by storm the quaint narrow bazaars of the old city this hot and humid season, made worse by prolonged power shutdowns.
It is quite common to find idle shopkeepers in Bhabra Bazaar, Raja Bazaar, Moti Bazaar and adjoining areas sitting outside their airless shops and being fanned by hired hands – with shoppers throwing envious glances at them.
It may look no fun for the perspiring service provider vigorously fanning his client but then one hour’s work earns him Rs30 on the average.
“I have neither a job nor enough money to start even a small business. So this becomes handy in the era of air-conditioning and absent electricity,” explained middle-aged Mohammad Akram without stopping his swinging arm.
“I earn Rs300 daily,” he told Dawn. “Sadly, my business will last only a few more days. Monsoon rains are predicted to be here soon and when they come people will no more need my services.”
But he is not without hope.
“My side-business is providing cold water to the thirsty for Rs5 per glass. Hopefully, that would keep me afloat,” he said.
And he calculates that by the time the new government’s plans succeed to reduce the ‘loadshedding’, winter will arrive. “In winter, I propose to sell tea or green tea.”
But thinking it cannot be a permanent business, Akram wants to save some money to hire a pushcart. “I will sell some other things,” he said.
Faiz Khan is also plying the fanning trade. He said he earned Rs400 daily while cooling people with hand fan.
“Some people asked me to fan them and gave me Rs30 to Rs40 for an hour’s service,” he said.
It is not a strenuous job for him because “I was a labourer and am used to doing harder job than fanning people.
“My clients are the traders who find it cheaper to pay for my services than investing in a generator as alternative source of the missing electricity,” he said.
His client Suhail Ahmed explained why he needed Faiz’s services.
“Electricity shutdowns and humid weather are unbearable for me. Rs30 is not much for enjoying a cool breeze,” he said sitting outside his shop on Jamia Masjid Road.
“During the elections, the residents of the garrison city gave vote to those who promised to end the electricity crisis. However, the new party members became useless as their party had not got enough vote to form the government,” said Muhammad Shakeel, a resident of Saidpuri Gate, while talking to Dawn.
He said that leaders of the new government have made it known that loadshedding would not end by next summer and people will have to live with this reality.
“The new government promised to minimise the loadshedding and people have to bear the burnt of the heat wave this year,” he said.
Some vendors and cobblers were also seen on the main road enjoying the cool breeze through traditional hand fan.
“It will be difficult for me to fan myself during work. Someone else doing it for me in this humid weather would be a blessing,” said Buland Khan, a cobbler.
Some people criticised the government for not ending the electricity loadshedding. They feel the government’s inability has brought times back when servants used to cool their masters with fans.
“Instead of reviving the slavery and indignity of man that flourished in colonial times, the moneyed men of today should try to fan themselves or get rechargeable fans,” said Ammar Malik, a visitor in the Moti Bazaar.
“It is 21st century and not a colonial era,” he reminded.