Tag Archives: Shahi Mohalla

Bazaar-i-Husn, formerly Sundarta Bazaar of Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan.

Footprints: Bazaar-i-Husn ─ Dark love

BY REEMA ABBASI

THEY have alluring names — Shahi Mohalla, Bulbul-i-Hazaar Dastaan, and Hyderabad’s Bazaar-i-Husn, formerly Sundarta Bazaar — old settlements where the business of flesh hangs on despite the ravages of circumstance.

Walking past the colonial quarters of Hirabad in Hyderabad, where intricate balconies and stone filigree jostle with modern-day eyesores, we arrive in a tangle of damp lanes.

Bazaar-i-Husn is said to be some 250 years old with over 600 multi-storey brothels and a hierarchy: the affluent leave their doors ajar — gaudy rooms in pink or red with ornate women who perform in cities or in faraway lands; some leave for a respectable life as the night ages.

Encounters with dead ends, where no one saw the point in a conversation at prime time, threw up an amusing surprise.

By a corner of the ‘offices’, I met the man who has carried the taazia from here for decades. In a sharia-compliant pajama and a white beard, when questioned he went into contortions of denial: “I have nothing to do with this area. Talk to me about religion. I appear on TV for my expertise,” he roared.

But one could hardly slide away without catching his murmurs — “Firdaus hai aaj? Ya sab maiyyat mei gaee hain?” (Is Firdaus available today or is everyone at the funeral?)

Some two doors from this sanctimony is veteran stage artist and dancer Jamila, known as Apa Peeno. A friend of the erstwhile movie star and one of the bazaar’s bygone caches, Chakori, Peeno belongs to days when the alleys had splendour.

“We learnt from Maharaj Samrat, and danced in beautiful clothes, heavy anklets, in the company of the genteel. It’s filthy now so I don’t live here,” she says as she takes us for a walk. We stop at a square with a shiny alam, above it a girl combs her hair on a balcony, and strikes a pose to grab lucrative attention.

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