An Empress Dethroned and a Lighthouse in Darkness
The sign says that this historical building has been closed for beautification. However, some shops are functioning inside and customers are present.
All the women selling dry fruit were located outside the market at one location. Now they have been dispersed.
All the shops outside the market (to the right of the main gate) were demolished.
Only about half a dozen shops have been left intact.
A vegetable seller has returned and placed the merchandise in the courtyard.
Where there is rubble, there is a broom. No that these brooms can remove the stones from the demolished shop.
With the market destroyed, the cats are going hungry
Most of the permanent shops have also been closed. Just a few remain functional.
- Empress market was famous for its fresh spices. Here a merchant, whose shop was destroyed, is selling a few items from a make-shift location inside the market.
From the shop to the wall, selling in the dim light from the main road.
Mr. Sanaullah, the driver of the rickshaw I took to go from Empress Market to the Lighthouse.
The daunting sight of rubble where there was once a thriving market for sixty years.
Old stones and old clothes, whatever your heart desires!
As they say, “you cannot keep a good man down”. This frail man has restarted his shop in the rubble.
I cross the street to my destination with trepidation in the crowded Saddar area of Karachi. It is like I am visiting a friend for the first time after learning that he was in a serious accident. Well, it is a friend but not one of the flesh and blood variety rather of brick and mortar. But it is not an ordinary edifice. It is seeped in a nearly 100 years of history. It is one of the most iconic structures of Karachi. It is the Empress Market.
In 1857 the rebels who rose against the British were tied to the mouth of the canons and blown up at this location. Today the edifice that stands here was meted out the same punishment with no regard for those who sold merchandise here to make a living or for those with tight budgets who shopped here because the prices were good.
I had previously visited the market to photograph it, to show it to visitors to the city and taken school children there who were interested in photography. But things are very different now. From Empress market I proceeded to the Lighthouse area, famous for shoes and second-hand clothing. It was like a war zone. Huge piles of bricks, stone and metal that were once small shops had replaced the lively section known as Landa Bazaar. Still, in the dim streetlight, the buyers and the sellers moved about like apparitions, as the old clothes were laid behind and above the rubble; a proof to the resilience of the vanquished.
But enough said. I will let the pictures plead their own case against the wanton destruction. An inhumane act carried out without sufficient warning and without any attempt at helping in the rehabilitation of those who were robbed of their livelihood. It was, like the song by Bob Marley goes: “Ambush in the Night, Ordered by His Majesty”.
Click on the camera icon to view pics.
The writer is an engineer by training and a social scientist by inclination.