KARACHI: No matter which lane one turned to, there was no escaping the overflowing gutters in Urdu Bazaar on Monday. And yet parents and children braved the stinking water for new bags, books and stationary because it was the evening before schools officially reopened after the extensively long Covid-19 break of six to seven months.
There were so many customers at the textbook and stationary shops and roadside vendors that it looked like chaand raat before Eidul Fitr. Many children and their elders were carrying plastic bags, double in some cases for extra protection in case book corners poked holes into the plastic. Many also wore school backpacks for safely carrying their purchases. Some of these bags were bought right there and worn immediately.
The broad smiles on the children’s faces showed how much they had missed school.
“We remained in touch with our friends and teachers, too, but it is still not the same as attending regular school,” said little Nishat. A student of class three, she still had a few days’ wait before rejoining her school as the government is opening schools in phases with higher classes starting first. Still, with a brand new bag, a cute new pencil case and colouring box, Nishat looked absolutely thrilled.
Educational institutions across the country are going to reopen today in phases
A mother, looking for thick-nib fountain pens at a shop, said that before coming for this last-minute shopping for her son, Raahim, who will be attending class nine now, she also had to get him fitted for a new school uniform and shoes a few days back.
“He has outgrown his old uniform and shoes too. I had to get him new black shoes along with new sports shoes besides the uniform sets,” she said.
Mohammad Aslam was also shopping for stationary for his son, Mohammad Hasan Hashmi, also a student of class nine. He said that he also has a little daughter in class four for whom he was looking for a good water bottle.
“Besides those two, I also have an older daughter who will be starting university now. Since she will be attending online classes as well, I also had to purchase a laptop for her,” he shared. “There is so much to get for all my kids, I am sure I will forget something and would have to come here again tomorrow,” he shrugged.
Meanwhile, Sohail Ismail, the shopkeeper attending to the father, was proving to be quite helpful. After the father’s selecting pencil cases for his children, he reminded him about pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, etc, which the father also needed. “I am also helping my own sales,” the shopkeeper winked as he went about his work.
Mohammad Furqan, who was minding another shop in the area, said he was also selling brand new school bags. He had a variety of colour and size lying in a heap on one side. Asked whether they were also lowering their prices after seeing so many customers throng the place, he smiled and shook his head. “Everything here is already available on wholesale rates,” he claimed.
Up ahead Mohammad Mateen was selling second-hand school bags, which were also selling quite well. “We were forced to live on our savings during these past seven months. But thank God, Urdu Bazaar will come back to life now,” he beamed.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2020