Noor Gul is approached by a milkman to buy a mask.—Photo by writer
Noor Gul is approached by a milkman to buy a mask.—Photo by writer

KARACHI: Surgical masks, disposable as well as cotton ones, anti-dust masks with ear loops, fashionable face masks of different colours ... Noor Gul from Quetta had them all, neatly hanging from his handheld display rack, and up for grabs for Rs50 each on day one of the lockdown here on Monday.

There he was on the service road turning of Korangi Road attracting customers. A car stopped by, the woman in the back seat rolled down her window to buy two, one for herself and one for her driver. A milkman on his motorcycle also stopped for a bit to ask how much he was selling them for and after trying to bargain a little, resolved to pay him what he was asking for as did the couple on their bike.

“I came to Karachi from Quetta five months ago in search of better earning opportunities,” said Gul. “I think I was doing fine, too, selling shalwar and kameez suit pieces for men from my cart. But now after the coronavirus pandemic and fears, there is no one to buy my suits,” he said.

“Yesterday, amid all the talk of a lockdown, I thought to go to Saddar to see what I could do. The protective masks worn by just about everyone, gave me an idea. I bought different types in bulk. I bought 23 dozen because I only had money for that much. And now here I am selling them for Rs50 apiece in the Defence Housing Authority,” he said.

“By the grace of God, I am doing well again, and even making a meagre profit. Everyone who passes by, sees me, pauses, thinks and buys a mask.”

One couldn’t see all his face since he was also being responsible by wearing a disposable mask himself. But you could make out from his eyes that he was smiling.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020