It being Christmas, I decided to visit the annual India International Mega Trade Fair. Kolkata looked resplendent in all her glory, throwing open her loving arms to International merchants and manufacturers alike. With my mother for company, I headed to the International arena, in a bid to meet the Pakistani exhibitors.
I met several of them, introducing myself as an ‘Aman Ki Asha’ member. The smiles that began lighting up their faces were indeed soul-warming on a cold wintry day. Quick introductions gave way to deep discussions on the trade fair, economy, wares … And most importantly, the affection that they were receiving in Kolkata.
Kolkata, aptly termed the ‘City of Joy’ had spun magic and left the visiting Pakistanis happy and emotionally moved. ‘Sales tou nahee ho rahi baji … Lekin aawaam mein muhabbat hai hum Pakistaniyon ke liye!’ – we’re not making a lot of sales, sister, but the people here have a lot of love for us Pakistanis, one of them chirped.
Many Pakistani exhibitors, in India for the first time, found the experience to be an eye opener.
‘Humein nahi maaloom tha ke hamare jaisey hi honge … Bas, dono mulkon mein raabta rahe, aman rahe!’ – We didn’t know there would be people like us here. Contacts and peace between the two countries must continue, that’s all, said a trader, grinning from ear to ear.
The stalls were a riot of colours, bursting in bright, vibrant hues. There were sunflower yellows, parrot greens, sea blues, and strawberry reds amongst the muted gold and silver. Most of the exhibitors were from Karachi, and a few from Lahore. The wares ranged from ornate shalwar kameez and daily wear scarves to marble figurines and even dry fruits.
What caught my attention though was the exquisite shoe range. There were fancy mojris and embroidered sandals. As I beamed at the collection, my eyes popping out, a shopkeeper handed me a pair in black with intricate embroidery in a plethora of colours. As I tried them on, they fit like a glove! The owner smiled, his eyes kind. ‘Aisey joote nah milenge poore Karachi mein. Inki photo tou aap zaroor bhejna Pakistan, apney doston ko,’ – you won’t find shoes like this in all of Karachi, take a picture to send your friends in Pakistan, he said. At INR 400, they were a steal.
Conversations and clicks over, my mother requested for a photograph against the Pakistan flag backdrop. As I obliged and turned around, I ran into a friend of mine, Mudit Bagla, an advertising professional.
I asked about his experience, and he replied excitedly, ‘I picked up these walnuts for my wife from a Pakistani stall’.
As he raved about its quality, I asked him to pose against the backdrop too.
About the fair:
India International Mega Trade Fair, Kolkata 2015: the biggest exhibition in India for international products from various countries.
Organisation: Farhan Trading (two stalls)
Connect: Been participating in Indian trade fairs for the past 17 years
Accompanied by: his son, Farhan
Organisation: Imperial Global (two stalls)
Connect: His first Indian experience
Exhibitor Speak: ‘Business is low but behaviour is so good! Mashallah!’
Organisation: Mustafa Textiles
Connect: An old-timer with regular presence in Delhi, Ludhiana, Punjab, Chandigarh and Bombay.
Exhibitor speak: ‘India is very respectful. I don’t find any difference in the awaam here and in Pakistan’.
Other stalls visited :
– Aodas Pak Collection – garments from Karachi
– Azeb Corner – shoes and garments from Karachi
– Sameer Auj Pakistan – garments from Karachi
– Unique Creation – garments from Karachi
Writer speak: ‘I’m overjoyed … Now that I have a ‘sole-mate. Love the bright colours and paisleys’.
Ruchhita Kazaria is a former journalist with The Asian Age and other publications. She currently works as an advertising professional and lives in Kolkata. Email: [email protected]