Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventure in the Bazaar

Today I had a wonderful experience that reminded me why I love Pakistan.

I've decided to not let beggars come away from my house empty handed anymore, and so recently I've been devising a plan of what to give out when they knock on my door or car windows. I gave out a few 'personal hygiene' bags including a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap. People were very grateful, but always asked if there was food in the pack. Why bother with brushing teeth when they don't have anything to eat?

Now Pakistani readers will probably think this is funny, but I just did not know how to buy wheat flour. We don't use it for cooking and the only ones I've seen at the super market are big 10KG bags. I'd go broke if I started giving those out to everyone, or I'd made a huge mess in my living room trying to make smaller packs out of the one big one. Once my husband had gone with our friend's cook and just gotten 1/2 kg of wheat flour in a small plastic bag. That's what I wanted, but I wanted a lot of little bags. Where should I get it?

I had to go to the Ali Institute today to pick something up, and I knew there were some small markets over there near Gulab Devi Hospital. I drove over there and stopped my car. The first shop keeper I asked did not sell wheat, but he told me to go all the way to the end of the road and I'd find a bazaar. I went to the end of the road and parked again. There were tons of little shops and workshops, and chickens and goats were running free everywhere. I didn't think the people were used to seeing foreigners, so I covered my head and off I went. I stopped in a small shop and a chubby bubbly man told me that he did not sell wheat, but that I could find it further into the bazaar. He came out of his shop and gave me wonderful directions, possibly some of the most detailed and accurate directions I've ever gotten in Pakistan.

I folled his directions, and sure enough I found another smiling chubby shopkeeper who was selling wheat. He told me that wheat was going for 24 rupees/kg which is about 30 cents. At first he was a bit confused at why I wanted 10 kg, but in twenty seperate 1/2 kg packs. After I explained that I wanted to give it out to people, he understood and got very excited about the idea. He proudly showed me all the other things on offer in his store, lentils, corn flour, rice, soaps, and all sorts of chips and food items. It took a while to make the twenty packs, so we had a nice chat. We talked about the current economic crisis and how the poor people really only want food nowadays.

Sweating in the sun, surrounded by the smell of livestock and talking to the smiling shopkeeper, I felt at peace. Even though I was in a poor area where many foreigners do not go, I was greeted warmly and helped by everyone I met. I parted with the shopkeeper assuring him that when I ran out of wheat, I'd be back to buy some more.

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