Paan Mandi – Lahore’s Mini India

If you happen to be an admirer of Indian branded hair-oils, Banarsi Sarees, Vatika shampoo, and Paan Supari from the other side of the border, you need not buy a ticket to Delhi for everything Indian is available in our very own Anarkali Bazar’s Paan Mandi. This particular market is famous for selling Indian merchandise smuggled illegally from across the border and signifies how profitable regular trade between the two rival nations can be.

Daily Times reports:

Paan Mandi, an alley market in Anarkali Bazaar, offers a glimpse of Indian bazaar culture in Lahore.

Also known as ‘Mini India’, the bazaar is well known for its Indian products that attract a large number of customers from across the city. An interesting fact about Paan Mandi is that almost all the shopkeepers there migrated from India and set up their businesses after 1947.

Paan Mandi Traders’ Association president Nawab Ali Khan, a Delhi-born 70-year-old man, told Daily Times that he was taking care of the business that his father had started in 1947. “The business in Paan Mandi has gone through several ups and downs, including the toughest year of 1965, as it is dependent upon the fickle Pakistan-India relations”, he said. He said that cable TV had increased Indian products’ demand and everyone wanted to use the soap or shampoo that his or her favorite celebrity used across the border.

Indian beauty soaps, shampoos, hair oils, hair-styling jells, fairness creams, hair-removal creams, after-shave lotions, perfumes, beauty lotions and shaving creams are easily available in Paan Mandi and have a great demand in Pakistan, said Haider, a cosmetics shop owner. He said Indian cosmetics were costlier than the Pakistani ones but better in quality. Adnan, another shopkeeper, said that small-size Indian beauty soap was priced at Rs 45 while same-sized Pakistani soap cost Rs 17 on average. But customers insist on buying the former because of its better quality, he added. “Indian beauty soaps are not manufactured by melting wax”, he said.

Despite being expensive, Vatika shampoo is very popular among customers, said Khurram, another cosmetics seller. Indian fairness creams are immensely popular because of their wide scale advertisement on cable TV, said Amjad.

“Indian cosmetics give better results so I don’t mind spending a few extra rupees on them”, said Saima, a customer. The price difference is due to the currency difference, said a shopkeeper.

Indian artificial jewellery in latest designs can also be easily purchased at reasonable prices from Paan Mandi. Garlands, rings, earrings and bracelets are among the most popular jewellery items, said Sultan, a shopkeeper. Indian jewellery is cheaper because labour is cheap in India, he added. Another shopkeeper Waseem said a bracelet that otherwise cost Rs 300 in Pakistan was available at Rs 200 if made in India.

Indian medicines are also available in Paan Mandi. Nawab, a druggist, said that people trusted Indian medicines, which were low-priced as well. Serpina, Herbdax, Mentat, Liv 52 are some highly demanded medicines, he added.

Indian Rao silk, cotton, Banarsi saris and muslin are also easily available in Pakistan and quite popular among customers. Indian cloth is priced a bit higher than Pakistani cloth but customers prefer the former because of its better quality, said Amir, a cloth merchant. Saiqa Bhatti, a customer, said she was buying some Indian clothes for her daughter’s dowry because they were of good quality.

Pineapple and coconut are largely seen in Paan Mandi. Munir, a fruit vendor, said Indian pineapple was pretty good to taste and competed Thai pineapple.

Paan and supari are special products of Paan Mandi and customers like them a lot, said Saleem, who owns a khokha at Paan Mandi. Noman Attari, a shopkeeper, said Indian gutka should be banned in Pakistan as it caused various diseases, including throat cancer.

Most of the products found in Paan Mandi are smuggled illegally from India, a middleman told Daily Times requesting anonymity. He said he had been visiting India for several years to return with Indian products without being caught. He said the customs and railway officials were involved in smuggling. Most of the shopkeepers, however, said they exported their products legally. Paan Mandi traders’ association president Nawab Ali Khan said people who visited India brought most of the products and paid duty on them.

4 Comments so far

  1. Ahmed (unregistered) on August 26th, 2007 @ 6:38 pm

    If its anything like Gawal Mandi, I’m in! :D

  2. Hasan Mubarak (unregistered) on August 26th, 2007 @ 7:28 pm

    Gawal Mandi is just Food Street, Paan Mandi on the other hand, is a bustling market area in the middle of Anarkali Bazar. However, it still has the same old havelis & jharokaas charm all around it.

  3. SELF (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 4:36 am

    One day passing by there I discovere grave of I Qutbuddin Aibak (i think it ws shim – its been a while). Never realised it was there.

  4. hira khan (unregistered) on August 27th, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

    aint bad…

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