August 14 preparations: The sea of green at Pakistan ChowkBlogs
Flags, T-shirts, hats, bangles, badges, wrist bands ... it's all here, and it's all green.
This is the Paper Market at Pakistan Chowk, where hundreds of vendors have set up stalls, selling special merchandise to celebrate Pakistan's 68th Independence Day. The place has turned into probably Karachi's biggest wholesale market for these items. Every inch of these streets seeps of the green independence spirit.
“Vendors all over Karachi purchase their items from our market. We don’t charge that much, so that people from all classes can celebrate their national day,” says Arshad, who is a manufacturer of the jhandian (small paper flags called) and has set up a temporary stall in front of his shop.
“We sell plastic bags, plastic glass, plates, etc the whole year but for this month, we shift our focus to independence day-related items. All the stall owners here either own a shop or an apartment in the area; we know each other and are setting up stalls here since decades.”
People come in good numbers with their families, to shop for independence day. A little after noon, the traffic police close the road for all sorts of traffic, because its narrow as it is, and now that it has turned into a makeshift shopping centre, there's just no room for cars.
There are small stalls and big stalls, all decorated with variably-sized national flags; badges with new designs and badges of old, familiar designs; green and white color bangles; and of course, flag-painted tees which attract customers of all ages.
Salman is an eight-year-old child waiting anxiously for 14th August. He persuaded his parents to bring him to the market and buy him an army uniform along with a bunch of colourful badges.
“I have also bought one badge for my friend and dozens of jhandian to decorate our balcony,” he said joyfully.
Talking to a shop owner, I learned that approximately five million flags of different sizes are printed by the traders at Paper Market alone, to be sold in different cities across Pakistan.
“This year,” the shop owner said, “we have received a healthy number of orders for flags, from different parts of Balochistan too.”
He informs me further that the Pakistani flag should be two-by-three in size, with the white colour not more or less than one-fourth of the total size, and the rest should be dark green.
“Business has almost doubled, compared to last year. People keep pouring in with their families and the shopping goes on till midnight, without any pause of strike or threats from extortionists,” said another small hawker.
Being here at Pakistan Chowk, amidst those sights and sounds; seeing people purchasing flags and badges of their beloved nation, with speakers around me blaring national songs – along with the nostalgia, there is a profound sense of comfort in all this.
We're here. We're united.
—All photos by author