By Sonya Rehman
Shop #162-G in Liberty Market, Lahore, is quite simply, a little shop of surprises. The path to ‘Kabul Handicrafts’ can be quite a tricky one – unless you’ve been frequenting the backend of Liberty (the main cloth area) and know each passage (inside the plaza) like the back of your hand.
But lest you lose your way – amidst the noisy hubbub of women bargaining, the claustrophobic little corridors (with cloth enveloping every nook, corner and ceiling of the plaza), catch your breath and stop.
Once you’ve done so, proceed to the nearest Pathan cloth man and ask: “Arey bhai, Afghan jewellery wallaye ka dukaan kahan hay?” (Where is the Afghan jeweller’s shop?), and you’re sure to be led to the right direction.
Nestled deep within the heart of Liberty’s Plaza, Muhammad Sadiq has been running ‘Kabul Handicrafts’ for sixteen years. “Hum idher aya ’91 mein” (I came here in ’91), Muhammad Sadiq (who runs the rented shop) tells me in a thickly-laced Pathan accent.
Originally from Afghanistan, Muhammad Sadiq or ‘Khan Sahib’ (as I call him), is now settled in Peshawar with his family. But of course since he has to run his thriving little business, is settled in Lahore. He is a dignified man – his pride (familiar in conservative Pathan folk), is almost tangible…yet at the same time, he has an air of modesty about him. “Shurru mein itna log nahin ata tha dukaan par…haan, mushkil tha” (In the beginning not many people came to the shop…yes, it was difficult), Khan Sahib reminisces, “Ab toh bohat behtar ho gaya, kaafi log ata jata rehta aye” (Now though it’s gotten much better, a lot of people come and go).
Once one is inside ‘Kabul Handicrafts’, it is difficult to not lose your mind – especially if you adore real ethnic and chunky jewellery (in the true sense of the word).
Khan Sahib’s antique pieces (big necklaces, earrings, beaded bags, karas and decoration pieces) come from different parts of NWFP.
Infact Khan Sahib’s antique collection is bought from people up North who want to sell off old family heirlooms and jewellery pieces. How fascinating. Picking up a silver beaten, chunky kara fitted with happy pieces of feroza stones and you immediately feel this wave of nostalgia wash over you – the mountains, lakes, the sunsets and sunrises – that’s what comes to mind once a particular piece at ‘Kabul Handicrafts’ is seen, touched and felt.
Apart from the antique collection, newer jewellery pieces are stocked regularly. The newer lot (made primarily in Peshawar) which consists of big rings, earrings and necklaces (with authentic semi-precious stones) are pieces made in sterling silver and most look almost Tibetan in design and shape. The prices aren’t all that bad either – for instance one thick, antique feorza necklace (quite breathtaking) is priced at Rs.3,000, but if bargained down…you could perhaps bag it at Rs. 2000 – Rs. 2,500. Not too bad, don’t you think?
Just last week, ‘Kabul Handicrafts’ was re-stocked again with brilliant pieces, so for ethno-funk loving women (and men) in the city or for those ‘just visiting’, it’s worth a trip down.
Two tips though; firstly, stop over at the fresh juice shop before proceeding into Liberty Plaza – and down an apple or anaar juice (if in season).
Secondly, identify your jewellery pieces and bargain with Khan Sahib nicely…be compassionate, because it took him a long voyage to get where he is today.
Instep Today, The News