KARACHI: Who needs padded cushions, foam mattresses and stuffed toys when you can fill air in them? Who needs swimming pools in posh clubs when you can inflate a plastic or rubber pool in your lawn or backyard to then fill up with water?
There they are, a number of them with their inflatable furniture, pools and toys displayed on footpaths of major roads or around roundabouts. There are chairs and stools, big dolphins and other animal characters all filled with air. There are also air mattresses leaning against walls.
Mohammad Aslam with his plastic inflatables at People’s Chowrangi near Mazar-i-Quaid says that he has been selling these for 12 years now. “Sometimes when there is a security issue as the Mazar is just a stone’s throw away, we are asked by the Rangers to go and sell our stuff elsewhere. We have to move to the inside streets but no one buys anything then as no one gets to see it,” he says.
“Business is also down during the winter as no one is interested in buying the inflatable pools and tubs then,” he continues. “But it is good to see warm weather returning to Karachi. Now every other car driving past will stop to inquire about the price of the pools,” he adds.
The pools can be as small as three feet by two feet in width or as big as 10ft x 4ft and are priced between Rs1,000 and Rs3,000, according to their size.
And what about when the city is facing a water crisis? “Well, if you have nice big bungalows with big lawns to spread out the pools, you must also be rich enough to afford water tankers,” he explains.
Roadside sellers of these items can be found in other parts of the city as well. There is one right across the Christian cemetery on Korangi Road, and another one at Stadium Road in Gulshan-i-Iqbal.
“All these pools and toys are made in China, Korea or Japan. That’s also why they have such cheerful colours. They are reasonably priced,” says another roadside seller, Ghulam Shabbir. He also has several air mattresses lined up against a wall. Again, the mattresses cost Rs1,500 to Rs2,200 according to their thickness and size.
Shabbir also sells air pumps. “You can’t be blowing air in these yourself. Your lungs would give up,” he laughs.
Unlike the paddling pools, the mattresses, Shabbir says, sell better in winter. People like to place them in their verandahs or roof terraces to enjoy the winter sun. They also like to take them for picnics,” he adds.
Although the inflatable mattresses and other objects can also be repaired easily if they develop any leaks, Shabbir says that one should take care to not fill too much air in them. “You fill too much air and start jumping up and down on them. But it’s not a jumping castle or trampoline that you are bouncing on. What do you expect? At the very least they would develop leaks, at the most they would explode,” he says.
Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2017