Life in the town of Pathankot
by Prabal Pramanik
day starts early in Pathankot at about 4am. The work for that day begin with the coming of
newspapers to the town for sorting.
The synthetic orange glow of mercury vapour lamps create an unnatural filter for the night
sky. Heavy trucks and early busses rumble along the road.
Sadhus have their tea at some dhabas that open at early hours. Gujjars unload
milk urns from the bus tops. As the light spreads across the sky, the rag pickers carrying
big sacks start looking for waste paper.
Languidly the town pulls itself up from sleep. Sound of bells and Chanting come from
Temples. Porters, vegetable and fruit sellers who sell their ware on open box carts and
auto-rickshaw drivers are some of the early morning workers.
More milk is brought by Gujjars from nearby villages on two and three wheelers and the
newspaper man darts about on his bicycle. Street cattle look for food in piled up garbage
and at some places sweepers are seen sweeping with brooms.
Light becomes stronger, and morning customers come to the vegetable market. School
children walk briskly along the roads and some shops open their shutters. The day of work
starts in Pathankot.
The big trading centre with the bustling crowded market makes the town lively. Push carts
called rehris, horse drawn carts bringing vegetables and rickshaws move along
the crowded roads of the bazar.
Traders selling various goods ply their trade in Pathankot. One can buy all general daily
needs and household materials in Pathankot.
There are many fine bakers in Pathankot. They make crisp rusks, flaky bakharkhanis,
quality buns, bread, cakes, biscuits and pastries topped with fresh cream.
Most of the baking is done at wood burning ovens. Shortbread biscuits and different kinds
of parkoras or savoury fritters are fried in oil.
In road side stalls tanduri rotis and chickpea curry is served to those who
want a quick meals at low cost.
The workshops of traditional metal works making copper and brassware are interesting
places. They make traditional pots, huge butlois or vessels and temple decorations. There
are a few artists working in sheet metal near Ashapurni Mata Temple at Androon Bazar in
the traditional way.
Androon Bazar in old Pathankot is a world by itself. Narrow alleys criss crossing each
other in a way that show that this area of the town just grew up without planning, are the
best place to explore the life of Pathankot.
Old buildings, many of them made with thin tile like bricks cemented with lime and mortar
line the alleys on both sides.
A thin strip of blue above in between the roof tops is the only glimpse of the sky one has
from the lanes below. Sunlight slides along the patch work patterns on the plaster.
Houses with extremely narrow stair cases and hanging balconies jostle with each other for
Some of the houses have beautifully decorated wooden doors in traditional style.
Mini courtyards where sunlight rarely comes, are secluded behind doors. Shops selling an
amazing variety of items are open in the ground floors. In this mini world, one finds many
points of interest. Temples, workshops for different kinds of crafts and even a
functioning well make the place worth a visit. Shawl weavers shop where shawls are
being woven in different designs, tailor shops, traditional brassware makers workshop and
goldsmiths workshops give Androon bazar a distinctive character.
One wishes that the lanes were cleaner there. The garbage collection system at Androon
bazar needs to be improved.
In these narrow lanes one may see an occasional donkey caravan carrying sand
and gravel with a small spade sticking out of a sand filled sack. Larger modes of
transport would find it impossible to ferry building material in these narrow lanes.
In Pathankot one finds quite a few kite makers and kite sellers. Kite flying is a
favourite past-time. From the roof tops of Androon bazar it is another world where
sunlight plays on uneven shapes of the roof top terraces. Boys fly kites from the
rooftops, colouring the sky with spots of colour.
Cloth dyers boil cloth in dye and water and the dyed pieces are hung in colourful array.
If one is lucky enough one can come across a Bahurupia or a traditional street
performing artist who dresses up as different characters. It is becoming rare to find a
bahurupia (meaning a person who changes his looks) now, as this
ancient performing folkart has very little patronage now.
Vehicles stand under the afternoon sun in the traffic jam in the old city while people on
foot and bicycles try to wriggle in and out. In hot afternoon people drink fruit juice and
soda at roadside vendors. Lassi seller in meat market gali does brisk
business. Pensioners play cards at Shimla Pahari Park. The activities of the town center
in and around the trading centers mainly. Evening comes with patchwork of light and shadow
on the streets.
Shop windows in the newly built malls glitter in the market. Baloon sellers and vendors of
fast food stand under the street lights of the main road where many people come with their
families to relax after the days work.
Night comes with the closing of shutters and the coming of loaded trucks in the town.
Roadside liquor shops are open till late at night as well as some dhabas or
cheap eating places. Night trains whistle in Pathankot and Chakki Bank railway stations.
Street dogs curl up here and there while the town rests waiting for another day.
© Prabal Pramanik
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