The Weekly Binge

Weekly bazaars of­fer a va­ri­ety of goods at rel­a­tively cheaper prices. They at­tract all in­come groups and re­main a pop­u­lar shop­ping des­ti­na­tion across Pak­istan.

Southasia - - Culture - By Kinza Mujeeb Kinza Mujeeb is pur­su­ing a Bach­e­lors in Me­dia Sci­ence from SZABIST, Karachi.

In a coun­try like Pak­istan where the ris­ing prices of petrol and CNG force in­di­vid­u­als to think twice be­fore leav­ing their homes for shop­ping, weekly bazaars of­fer a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts at rea­son­able prices. A core rea­son be­hind the pop­u­lar­ity of th­ese bazaars is the con­ve­nience of find­ing an ar­ray of es­sen­tial and non-es­sen­tial com­modi­ties at one place. Fur­ther­more, a weekly bazaar named af­ter each day of the week is held in dif­fer­ent lo­cal­i­ties across the city, pro­vid­ing af­ford­able goods to an in­fla­tion-struck pop­u­la­tion, along with in­come for daily wage earn­ers.

From fruits and veg­eta­bles to meat and seafood, lo­cal bazaars of­fer stacks of cloth­ing, branded shoes, de­signer bags, tex­tiles, rugs, car­pets, books, scarfs and sou­venirs at rel­a­tively cheap prices. What makes the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence even more de­light­ful is the ex­tent to which one can ex­er­cise and pol­ish one’s bar­gain­ing skills. Be­ing able to pur­chase goods at half the price, most cus­tomers hap­pily un­dergo the painstak­ing process of park­ing their cars in con­gested ar­eas around the mar­ket and trudg­ing around the bazaar, look­ing for deals and ig­nor­ing the heat and dust.

Un­like or­ga­nized de­part­ment stores and shop­ping malls, weekly bazaars are of­ten a nui­sance for the res­i­dents liv­ing in the area. De­spite the known fact that th­ese bazaars at­tract a vast num­ber of cus­tomers, lit­tle or no ef­fort is made to pro­vide ad­e­quate park­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Cus­tomers des­per-

ately try to find park­ing spots near the bazaars, of­ten block­ing the roads and heav­ily dis­rupt­ing traf­fic.

Keep­ing th­ese draw­backs in mind, the bachat bazaar lo­cated in an af­flu­ent area of Karachi has re­cently un­der­gone a dras­tic ren­o­va­tion. The new bachat bazaar in the De­fense Hous­ing Author­ity ( DHA) suc­cess­fully re­placed the old Sun­day bazaar, which fell short of meet­ing the grow­ing de­mands of its con­sumers. The new bazaar is nearly dou­ble in size as it oc­cu­pies nearly 25.5 acres and shops are also cov­ered with fiber­glass tops, thus pro­tect­ing shop­pers from the heat and cre­at­ing a cooler en­vi­ron­ment. Apart from the ad­di­tion of a food court, play­ing area and toi­lets, two spa­cious and or­ga­nized park­ing ar­eas are pro­vided within the vicin­ity.

How­ever, not ev­ery change is for the bet­ter. Due to the lav­ish makeover of the bazaar, stall rents have in­creased. Stall own­ers pay a hefty amount of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per month. This leads to a dis­turb­ing rip­ple ef­fect as the sellers charge heavy amounts and refuse to bargain with cus­tomers. More­over, reg­u­lar cus­tomers are of­ten dis­ap­pointed when they re­al­ize that many of their fa­vorite stalls have dis­ap­peared. Many stall own­ers were not able to pay the in­creased rent and, with com­modi­ties not avail­able at rea­son­able rates, the true essence of weekly bazaars has been lost. The new and re­fined Sun­day bazaar, has there­fore lost its core pur­pose of serv­ing the mid­dle class and has trans­formed into yet an­other plat­form to ac­com­mo­date those with money in their pock­ets.

It now seems that th­ese weekly bazaars are an ex­tended form of shop­ping malls, which are a com­mon sight in the West while South Asian coun­tries have be­come known for their out­door bazaar cul­ture. Whether it is the goods found in such places or sim­ply the ex­pe­ri­ence it­self, out­door bazaars at­tract for­eign tourists, celebri­ties, and cus­tomers from across the so­cial spec­trum. Fur­ther­more, while some de­part­ment stores, such as Metro, re­quire con­sumers to buy in bulk to ben­e­fit from con­ces­sional rates, weekly bazaars do not im­pose such a con­di­tion.

It is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine ex­actly which so­cial class weekly bazaars cater to but it is safe to as­sume that the mid­dle and lower-mid­dle class are the ones that ben­e­fit the most. The rich pre­fer to shop in cool su­per­stores ac­cord­ing to their own con­ve­nience. Yet there are many among the elite who visit the Sun­day bazaar in search of branded items, like bags and shoes and hope to buy them at com­pet­i­tive prices.

De­spite all the short­com­ings and com­plaints from con­sumers, the trend of weekly bazaars re­mains an in­te­gral part of Pak­istani so­ci­ety. The trend of shop­ping at malls is spread­ing in the coun­try but weekly bazaars still con­sti­tute a ma­jor part of the av­er­age Pak­istani’s shop­ping ac­tiv­ity.

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