While November brought about a complete transformation of Saddar, the hub of Christmas shopping every year, not much has changed at a small hardware shop in the lanes opposite the once bustling Empress Market.
Burhan Hardware, located adjacent to Taheri Masjid, is once again decked in the red, green and gold of Christmas this year just as it has been for the past 10 years come December. Customers come in drawn by the festive decor and leave with bags full of trinkets and decorations for their Christmas trees and homes.
“We start getting the stock for Christmas items at the beginning of the month and put them on display accordingly,” says Saifuddin as he keeps an eye out for interested customers. According to him, the shop has been around for more than two decades, but they started dealing in Christmas decoration items some nine years ago.
Because of the constant movement of pedestrians and shoppers on the pavement, one has to stand on tiptoes to look inside the shop in search of items to buy. For shoppers’ convenience, a table has also been placed outside, displaying Christmas trees of various sizes decorated with fairy lights.
A few days before Christmas, Angel stands outside the shop as her children look through the trees before deciding on one to buy. “We take different items from here, like these multi-coloured balls in both small and large sizes,” she says pointing to a pack of them.
Angel, who lives in Orangi Town, comes to the small shop every year to buy items to decorate her Christmas tree, which, she explains, is a task that requires precision and concentration to ensure that the weight of the decorations is distributed evenly on the tree.
The trees made of plastic are available in green and more recently white in sizes that range from two to five feet. A five-foot tall tree can cost up to Rs1,200. The priciest at Burhan Hardware this season is a four-foot-tall and fully decorated tree that is priced at Rs6,000.
Prices have risen significantly over the years, says Angel, particularly of decoration items, which adds strain to the budgets of people who celebrate the holiday. Zeresh and her sister buy a number of Santa suits and tinsel. “We have come here for the first time from Baldia Town and we needed the items for our church’s Christmas activities,” she says.
Another buyer searches the box of Santa suits looking for a size that would fit a baby. He is disappointed that he found the shop late as he would soon be leaving for Lahore and didn’t have time to purchase. “I was planning to buy the suits and the caps in bulk so I could sell them in Lahore but I think I will do it next year.”
The main market for Christmas decoration items is Bohri Bazaar. Burhani Hardware is among a few shops that sell such things away from there. Saifuddin explains that they buy their items from local suppliers who import them from China. “The Santa suits always remain in great demand and the buyers who get them on wholesale rates flock to the shop during the first few days of December,” he says, adding that people who are able to find their size now would be lucky.
Speaking about his experience, Saifuddin says that he doesn’t feel any apprehension in selling Christmas items and hasn’t received any backlash for catering to the minority community, which has been feeling on edge since Asia Bibi’s release by the Supreme Court in a high-profile alleged blasphemy case in October.
“I can safely say that the major markets dealing in Christmas items, from importing to selling, are being run by Muslims and I don’t think there is any contention regarding the activities,” he says. “The celebrations should be treated like they are.”
Angel seems to have finished her shopping by now. She takes one last glance at a ‘Merry Christmas’ banner, but looks away as she leaves, probably out of budget to add one more thing to her shopping bag. Saifuddin excuses himself to cater to the other customers requesting for stars, bells, glass balls, streamers and the likes.
As dusk approaches, the fairy lights and glowing golden stars hanging above sparkle, adding a warm glow to the faces of merry customers excited with their purchases and looking forward to the festive season.
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