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Cuisine, couture and a lot more

Cuisine, couture and a lot more

LAHORE: During the three days of the Alhamra Literary and Cultural Festival, while a large number of literature and art aficionados learnt a thing or two from experts and professionals sharing anecdotes and pearls of wisdom inside the halls, an equally large crowd – mostly families enjoying the weekend -- could be seen entertaining themselves outside through myriads of activities.

From bookstalls selling publications on an array of subjects to a separate ground on the premises hosting stalls a la a mini numaish to live musical performances and drumbeaters. Families, students, couples, everyone seemed to be relishing the assortment of delicacies, including ice cream, gol gappay, pathooray, barbecue, winter favourite makai ki roti and sarson ka saag, and channa chaat, with the saag roti selling like hot cakes.

While the stalls outlined the ground, in the centre was a small stage with announcers inviting guests to sing, dance to their favourite songs and just entertaining them. There were artisans also making clay pottery and letting the guests do so too as well as one weaving khaddi.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, hailing from Kamalia and claiming to be selling 100pc handmade khaddi, said they had been in the cloth-making business for generations since even before the Partition, and then had to move to this side of the border. On display were plain and striped unstitched cloth for men; stitched, unstitched and embroidered clothes for women as well as stoles and cushion covers. The cloth ranged from Rs800 onwards.

He said Kamaila was one of the few areas known for handmade khaddi and there were many in his town who had developed a whole cottage industry for weaving khaddi.

A couple from Bahawalpur selling cloth with the intricate hand embroidery and embellishment the region is renowned for had an interesting story to tell. Muhammad Iqbal said his wife started embroidering and embellishing cloth at home around 25 years ago. Sensing its potential and demand, he said he also got into it along with his four daughters, all of whom were well educated but could not get jobs as they did not have enough money asked for bribes.

Iqbal’s wife, who did not wish to be named, said the kinds of embroideries they specialised in were makri, gulab tanka, choti makri, Benazir tanka, tarkashi, Balochi and Kashmiri embroidery, aar and mukeish. Every cloth they produce is a labour of sheer hard work and is priced at a minimum Rs2,000.

He said here they had come to Lahore for their first time and were surprised they got no response in the city, while they made huge sales in Islamabad and elsewhere. He blamed bad to no publicity and a lot of security at the gate for the poor response.

Areesh Kumar and his fellow salesman had come for the festival from Tharparkar and were selling stunning clothes, bed sheets, wall hangings and accessories hand-embroidered with the ‘hari’ technique displaying master craftsmanship through delicate minute detailing.

Kumar said the women at their homes had been creating these pieces for 25 years, a business that was started by his maternal uncle. They held countrywide exhibitions on the invitation of the government only and were displaying at Alhamra for the first time. He said they also had small shops in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Naran and Gujranwala.

As this year’s edition of the annual festival successfully ends, a little more promotion of the event would have brought out a lot more people. With so much on offer in terms of literature, music, performances, food and shopping all on one premises, the masses could really use forms of recreation.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2015

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