Of Chai – Paratha, Gladioli and Guava Jelly – Karachi Farmer’s Market is The Place to Be!
Winter days in the city by the sea are one of my favourite times of the year. The crisp chill in the air, the soft sea breeze, the thela-waalas with their offerings of dry fruit and nuts, the endless cups of tea with a hint of elaichi, each and everything is perfection.
There is so much to do during this time of year! Balls and beach-trips, drives to Bhambore and Bahawalpur, cycle rides and horse-riding, it’s as if Karachi takes a break from its usual helter-skelter, race-against-the-clock attitude and just mellows out. However, despite the plethora of things to do, people to see, and places to go, there is one place which stands out from the rest for me, a place where I go, time and time again, if not to shop, then to just soak in the atmosphere and walk around, exploring, and discovering – The Karachi Farmer’s Market!
Located at Haque’s Academy, DHA Phase 8, the Karachi Farmers Market is one of those places you have to visit, come what may. Initially set up around 3 years to provide a place where people could sell their homegrown or homemade organic produce, it has grown to become something more than the sum of its parts. For some, it is a meeting place for like-minded souls who want to have access to, or provide eco-friendly, organic food. For others, it’s a place to go with the family, a place where they can have a great paratha and chai, check out the new jams and cheeses available, listen to some great music (did I mention that there is live music? Amazing!) and buy some herbs and vegetable plants for their home. What do I go there for? For everything. For the ambiance, the feeling of travelling to another place outside Karachi, yet still inherently Karachi. Let me show you.
It’s a chilly morning in December. I park outside Haque’s Academy and walk towards the entrance, right behind a family of four, and next to an elderly couple eagerly talking about the new guava jelly which will be available today. The chirpy painted sign shows us the way. I can already see the old book shop stall set up in the lawn, and I promise myself that I will see if I can find my next read on my way out of the market. Climb up the stairs and the gorgeous atrium of Haque’s is before us, with the stalls of the vendors already set up. A smooth jazz tune is playing and a few children are playing with the most adorable poodle I’ve ever seen. Their parents are walking around, sipping chai and totally relaxed. It’s not crowded, as is the case with most markets in Karachi. People, young and old, are lounging, walking, browsing, chatting. There is no rush, no eagerness to leave. In fact, in most cases, people want to linger on and enjoy the morning there!
I walk past the stall selling fresh gladioli – glorious gorgeous blooms. I cannot resist buying a bouquet. The delicate peach-tinted gladioli have always been a personal favourite. I leave my bundle with the shop-keeper, who will hold onto it until I’m ready to leave, and head to my favourite vendor, Tumair Farms. Their cottage cheese with black pepper is the stuff of dreams and I buy a packet for Rs 400. The acacia honey looks fantastic and tastes as good as it looks. I grab a jar of that as well. The Daali Earth Food stall is up and running and their whole-grain barley porridge looks incredible. Some vendors are selling fresh farm vegetables, and the produce looks and tastes so much better than that available at the regular vegetable stalls. I agree that the price is more than that given in the market, but at the same time, you are getting a healthier product, free of pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer.
There is so much on offer at all the stalls and it’s incredible that there are so many vendors who are making such a concerted effort to provide organic produce. From eggs to cheese and milk, honey and jams, pulses and grains, organic skin care, hair care, vegetable plants and herbs, oils, spices and condiments, it’s all here and it’s wonderful. After a quick paratha and a look through at the bookstore, it’s time to go home.
Now, if you’re coming here to get organic food, you wont be disappointed. The organisers are very strict in making sure that each vendor has been vetted and checked against a stringent list of requirements to ensure that it is indeed organic.
However, whenever I come here, it’s not only to fill my basket with produce. I come here because this market shows me a place where ordinary folk, people like you and me, can come together and create a place where parents can relax and not worry about their kids’ safety, where people can slow down, smell the roses and take a deep breathe and take it easy. Don’t get me wrong, I love this adopted city of mine. And it’s not as if this Farmer’s Market is the only civilian initiative out there. There are many many others. But this little corner of DHA 8 makes me believe in what we ordinary people can do. It shows what can be done, if only one tries. It shows me the kind of Karachi that can be.
About Saba Tariq Hassan
Saba holds a Law Degree from the University of Hull in the U.K. However, this Corporate Lawyer is now discovering that her real passion lies in writing! Saba is married with a son. She wants to be able to capture the spirit of a person or place through here writing. On a funny note, in her own words: ' I want to be able to "adult" without feeling like an imposter! She loves Marvel Comics and confesses to being a Sci/Fi - Fantasy geek. Her comic soulmate? 'Well, Star Lord of course!' Saba loves to make people laugh. She secretly wishes she were a Persian Cat! She prefers to 'Live in the Moment', and goes by the motto: Take it a day at a time!