Panicking people at supermarkets and stores

Updated March 19, 2020

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An overloaded shopping cart is being pushed and pulled as other such carts follow right behind in the parking lot of a super store. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
An overloaded shopping cart is being pushed and pulled as other such carts follow right behind in the parking lot of a super store. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The parking lot of many big supermarkets all over town had people pushing out heavily-laden trolleys or shopping carts heaped with grocery items, which they then unloaded into their car trunks and back seats or loaded their motorcycle handles with on Wednesday. Lock-down and supplies was on the minds of everyone. Well, almost everyone.

There were flour sacks, rice, lentil and sugar packets, bottles of cooking oil, ghee cans and tins, milk box cartons and powder milk, biscuits, bakery items, eggs and big sacks of onion and potato, soaps, shampoos and hand sanitisers. Some people were pushing two carts, one with each hand down the ramps, others had each family member coming out, pushing a cart of their own. Once emptied the trolleys or carts were being quickly lined up by the supermarket staff and pushed back inside for more shoppers.

“It is better to be safe than sorry. What will we do if there is a lock-down. How will we eat then,” said Shahnaz, who said she came to the store the moment her husband put his salary in her hand.

“My husband usually gets his salary on the 16th and 17th of a month. Today is the 18th. So here we are,” she said gesturing towards her heaped cart.

Asked what she thought was absolutely essential at such a time, she said she made sure to get flour, rice, lentils and sugar before assisting her husband in unloading their carts. “See, we are a household of eight. We can’t be careless about food supplies. Even if the markets remain open later, what if they run out of their stocks?” she pointed out.

‘Well, the children are getting bored sitting at home; they can play cricket, badminton or football’

Khaista Gul, another shopper coming out of a supermarket, said that he had bought enough supplies to last him and his family 20 days. “I think it should be enough. I also need to keep some money aside in case of any medical emergency, God forbid,” he said.

Surprisingly, several shopping carts also had cricket bats, badminton rackets and footballs. “Well, the children are getting bored sitting at home. They can play cricket, badminton or football at home,” said one thoughtful mother with a cricket bat and two boxes of tennis balls with electric tape in her shopping cart.

There were some who did not seem worried at all. Nighat Sajid only had two jharoo for sweeping floors in her cart. “I have full faith that all will be well and things will improve,” she said with a smile. “This too shall pass,” she added before explaining that she intended utilising her time at home during the current crisis by tending to certain household chores, including house cleaning.

Nightat should have met and perhaps even spoken to the little family of husband, wife and a 10-month-old daughter, who were busy hanging and securing with knots the various shopping bags on their motorcycle handles.

“This is just routine stuff that we got,” said Waris, the young husband trying not to attract too much attention. But Muntaha, his wife smiled and disclosed that they had shopped to last them two months. Then she got behind her husband on their bike. That was when one of the workers of the supermarket they had just shopped at tapped on the husband’s shoulder to remind him to take their baby girl from the otherwise empty shopping cart before they rode off!

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2020