What better time to pen a post than when one feels nostalgic about the subject?
And how I do! For Liberty, the main shopping bazaar in Gulberg, Lahore, the heart of the city’s commercial/shopping area.
Yes: shopping in Pakistan can be frustrating, things take time, shopkeepers don’t always keep their promises, it’s hot and tiring… but I loved it all the same! And I miss it!
Out of the 29 days I was in Lahore, I probably spent 20 of them roaming the markets of Liberty.
Liberty is made up of gold shop upon gold shop and rows of clothing boutiques and tailoring outfits (promising to make you the best copy “of HSY and Karma”!) all nestled closely together. Getting lost in the gullies of the vast market you’ll see rolls of fabric in every hue, shawls and scarves handcrafted within intricate designs, costume jewelery, laces and border appliques – Liberty has it all.
My sister, who lived in Pakistan for 10 years, showed me around Liberty and pointed out key places so that I could orient myself after she left. Like, Subway. Smack dab in the middle of the market you’ll see a Subway, from which you continue down the street to stores like Subhan’s (where I got an oufit from a picture copied….it turned out beautifully in the end, but only after 20 visits or so) Lal Chuneriya (where I got my Mehndi outfit made), M. Jamal (where I got my Mayoun outfit made) and Emaans (where I got a “Karma” sari copied!). (Note: I only got a total of 4 outfits made from Liberty, and I was so glad I limited it to that, Mehndi outfit aside, I had issues with each of the outfits I got made…e.g. Sari blouse too big, chooridar pants too small, etc.) If you’re going to get outfits made and copied you need the luxury of time! But anyway, if you continue towards the backside of Liberty you enter into a basement complex area and there you will see countless ‘karigaars’ (workers) who are sitting on the ground with low tables in front of them, either sewing by hand, or glueing on various beads and stones onto the fabrics that will then become beautiful, fancy outfits. It really is a site to see. When people talk about going to Pakistan and getting outfits “copied”, this is what they mean. People will take pictures of designer outifts and give them to these local workers who will then ‘copy’ their desings at a fraction of the cost. Now, there are definitely critics of this practice. The designers, themselves for one. Some of the ‘elite’ who look down on those who do this. But in my opinion, if you can’t afford to get a designer dress, and you really like their design, and you know that someone can do it at half the price, then why not. Of course, there are definite risks. The copy might not turn out exactly like the original, the quality of fabric may be compromised, the date that it’s promised to you will probably fluctuate, but still, it’s the only option for many.
There’s also all of the stores in Liberty itself, such as Libas E Khaas,Wedding Asia, Zardozi, Saleem Fabrics, that create their own bridal dresses. Here you go, sit down, and the store clerks show you all the different sample wedding dresses that they have designed, and you can pick out one you like, order it, and make alterations as you desire (changing colours around, cuts, etc.). That, however, can also be risky, because you do hear of stories where the store owners got all of the changes wrong and you end up with something you don’t like! When I visited these types of stores I sat down waiting to be impressed by the designs, but I never was. In fact, I thought to myself, “why was everyone telling me I would be spoiled for choice here?!” and that I would be so “overwhelmed with selection”?! I didn’t find that at all. I found that I didn’t like anything that Liberty had to offer in terms of clothing – everything, as I’ve said in past posts, had, in my opinion, gaudy stone work that had no timelessness or elegance to it.
My mehndi outfit, however, I saw on a mannequin and loved it immediately. I only changed around the colour combination, and I’m very satisfied with it. Oh, and the price was also right – we got it for 27000 RPS (about $270…this dress in Canada would be at least $1000). I had a similar experience with my mayoon outfit, it was a design of the store’s, I saw it, I liked it, and got it as is with the exception of changing the colour combination. The other two that I got made from Liberty I had designs copied, and gave them the pictures to do it from.
I miss being there. I realize that my trip to Pakistan was just that, a trip, and real life there wouldn’t be the same. But I miss the warmth of Lahoris. I miss sitting down in shops and being offered tea and coke and chaat papri and samosas. I miss the banter and quarreling with the uncles in the shops who didn’t give me my clothes on time, lol. I miss their bemused reactions to my English accented Urdu-Punjabi. I miss hearing old Bollywood songs echoing throughout the streets of the bazaar, I miss the colorfulness of the shops, I miss ice cream from the streets! They say Lahore Lahore hai (Lahore is Lahore), and it’s so very true. 🙂