My sisters love to shop. They give a new meaning to the word ‘shopaholic’. Put my sister-in-law in this equation and these ladies will be out of their houses for a good four hours, leaving their kids with me and my mom. They will brave Karachi’s sweltering heat, the nuisance of finding a relatively good parking spot (there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ parking spot), ignore the out-stretched arms of the beggars, gladly inhale the dust and the pollution to enter — yes, the famous Sunday Bazaar.
That’s right! All this preparation, all this setup for that one special day in the week, when most of the city has its shutters down, but one place in Defence Phase VIII in the biggest city of Pakistan has its doors open for literally all and sundry.
A little background of this shoppers’ paradise: DHA Bachat Bazaar, as it was initially named, is open only on Sundays and it is the largest bazaar in the Defence area of Karachi. Each of the 1,850 stalls have covered fibreglass tops to block out Karachi’s merciless sun during the never-ending summer months. Stretched over an area of over 4,000 square yards, the Bazaar has all the usual goodies of a well-stocked marketplace — fruits, vegetables, meat and masalas are all on offer — but it’s the not-so-usual stuff that attracts thousands every Sunday.
From a needle to a wrought-iron bed, you can buy all that you need and a lot more. But beware, not all the stuff is new. As with all flea markets, you can get a lot of second hand stuff, generally of excellent quality, and only on closer inspection will the truth be revealed to the buyer. Some categories of used items includes kids’ clothes, table covers, laces and extensions, buttons, socks, rugs, some furniture, joggers, boots, kids’ shoes, magazines and what-not. But don’t despair; the list of new items is twice as long. Shawls, ladies and gents suits, bed sheets and bed covers, quilts, books, crockery, cutlery, extensive variety of kitchen stuff, handbags and suitcases. Yes, suitcases! You name it, they have it.
Lubna Hussain moved to Kuwait after her marriage. But this distance hasn’t lessened the appeal that Sunday Bazaar holds for her. A once-a-month visitor to the flea market since the age of 17, she arranges her airline ticket so that her flight lands in Karachi in the later days of the week. “It would be a shopping tragedy if I landed in Karachi on a Monday or Tuesday. What a waste of four or five days!” Lubna was in Karachi for five Sundays in all, and Sunday Bazaar saw her for four of them. With two kids under the age of five, she gets nearly everything under the same roof. “I get all the stuff for filling in goodie bags that I distribute at birthday parties. Even without the advantage of the exchange rate, the stuff is reasonably priced.” Her prize-buy at her favourite shopping location: a back-pack for her five-year-old daughter, Zaina, with matching Dora lunch box and water bottle.
Another guest to Sunday Bazaar is Zahra Abbas. A visitor from Pittsburg, she first visited the market in 2006, with her sister-in-law. And she hasn’t stopped after that. “Earlier, I was running around all over Karachi. Tariq Road for kids clothes, Zainab Market for shawls and traditional gifts, Gul Plaza for crockery and bedspreads. Now, it’s just Sunday Bazaar. I am saving a lot of time and energy.”
A true Karachitte, Naija Hansaraj, has been going with her family to this Mecca for shoppers for as long as she can remember. Her family splits up when they enter the Bazaar and generally meet after two hours at a designated spot. But two hours aren’t enough, and has her longing for the next Sunday. “The prices and the variety on offer is splendid, and I can shop to my heart’s content without feeling guilty.”
And if you are not a shopaholic, you can head straight to the Food Court, while your better half shops and shops. The aroma of barbecued food is enough to pull one towards the food stalls and if that isn’t enough, then the appetising displays of eateries will surely have you ordering something. Pizza, kebab rolls, biryani, cholay chaat, pakora, pani puri and all. Says Mehreen Shahid, a resident of KDA, “We come here around noon, do our grocery, then I indulge in some more attention-grabbing stalls, like artificial jewellery, kitchen stuff that I definitely don’t need and recipe books that I know I won’t use more than twice and yes, my personal favourite — carpets and rugs. After we dump our shopping in our car, we head back to have our lunch and usually we bump into some of our friends here. A perfect Sunday, I would say”.