Published Jan 29, 2017 06:33am

What a spectacle!

Shazia Hasan

KARACHI: You may be long-sighted or short-sighted but everyone who happens to wear glasses in Karachi knows about the wholesale eyeglass market in Boulton Market. Why they all don’t go there is another story altogether.

“Finding parking here is next to impossible, so the people would rather head to the other opticians in areas where they can park their cars conveniently,” says Mohammad Nadeem of Foto Optics.

The lenses as they come. These are then cut to fit frame sizes. / Photos by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

The optician shares a bit of history about the place, which he, and the other shopkeepers in the market, say came about a year or two before Partition. “Boulton Market comes in the old city area. It is Karachi’s business hub. There used to be trams passing by here. You can also see plenty of heritage buildings here. And not only does this area boast of the biggest eyeglass market, you have plastic, hardware, tools, cosmetics and jewellery shops present as well,” he says, adding that his own little shop was opened in 1948 by his father.

Cat-eye frames are the most popular these days. / Photos by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Though the shops deal in frames, powered glasses and sunglasses, they can also order contact lenses along with a variety of lens cleaning solutions. All the frames are made in China. There are also copies of branded sunglasses, again from China. “A branded pair of sunglasses would cost you thousands but here you can find a good copy for around Rs500,” he says.

The plain frames, be they plastic or metal, are also very reasonably priced. A Rs1,500 frame anywhere else can be bought for less than half of that.

But you cannot get your eyes tested by an eye doctor at these shops. So your prescriptions have to come from elsewhere. “We don’t have eye doctors here because there is simply no space for them,” the shop-owner points out. “Actually, that’s where the bigger opticians’ shops get ahead. They have enough space to also keep a place for eye testing by qualified doctors,” he says.

Sunglasses with polarised lenses. / Photos by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

At some of the other shops there are boxes piled over each other with the various powered lenses in both plastic and glass. They are rather big and perfectly round. “We cut out the lens from these according to the size and shape of the frames,” says fitter Mohammad Osama. He also shares that the men are not very choosy or selective in choosing a frame for their glasses although women take a lot of time checking in the mirror to see which kind of frames best suit their face cut.

“The most popular frames among the ladies these days happen to be the cat-eye frames,” he adds.

Spectacle cases. / Photos by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

And once you hand in a prescription at any of the shops and have decided on a frame, the spectacles then are made within an hour at any of the shops in the market. “I have been coming here since I started wearing glasses in class four,” says Nisreen Jodhpurwala, a female customer trying on and adjusting different frames in front of a small mirror provided to her by a shopkeeper.

Asked if she was a very studious child to have weak eyesight at the age of eight or nine, the customer shrugs and smiles. “No, it was from watching too much television,” she says.

Published in Dawn January 29th, 2017

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