Rabiah Hussain, a student of Mass Communication at NUST, Islamabad, is passionate about telling interesting stories about everyday life through her photographs. She excels at capturing the unnoticed beauty and magic of the real world we live in. A wanderer and a dreamer, she is constantly mesmerised by the vibrance of Pakistani culture and society, and hopes she can bring some of it to the forefront through her work. Rabiah tells Sana zehra about her experience viewing the Lal Kurti bazar through the camera lens…

9am on a Saturday. Most of the shop owners are still at home, or cleaning out their shops to welcome customers for the day; Shafi Sahab is nearing the end of his daily work orders. The establishment, a mere 10×20 shop in Lal Kurti, a bazaar and residential area dating back to British Colonial Times, is hardly eye-catching, if not for the bright flair of freshly dyed fabric.

I see a man, on who age shows, sweating through his ragged work clothes, standing on besides a hot cauldron mixing dyes. The moment he sees my camera, his face lights up. It was as if the wrath of the cruel sun, or that of the burner just a foot away from him had vanished. He says “khincho khincho beta” “achi si photo lena” which roughly translates to “take a good photo, child”.  Containers on containers of colors of every hue imaginable are lying around, yet the shop has a single light source and the dullest shade of white on its walls.

As I start taking pictures, he is halfway through coloring a light pink dupatta. Like a seasoned chef, he takes an amount of dye powder that is only measured by his experience, and artfully flicks it into the cauldron. “The girl”, he tells me, “wanted the shade to be exact”. With the quiet contemplation of a connoisseur, he holds the sample color next to the dyed fabric in the natural light to check for the color grade. After all, perfection is hardly underrated.

Admist all this, a slight grin rests on his face. A grin of satisfaction, of pride. And why shouldn’t he be proud of himself? To be the owner of a shop that is over a century old, and to be known as THE ‘rung walay bhai/uncle’ in a busy marketplace is hardly a small deal.

As he leans onto one of the cauldron and looks beyond his shop, he tells me how proud he feels when people come to him, and after seeing the dye tell him that, “this is exactly what I wanted”. He smiles, satisfied.

The smile on his face, the realness of his laughter cannot be forged; it cannot be created with some dyes and a pot of hot water. It comes from within.

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