Ghalib Market: Unremarkably Remarkable
Nestled just a street away from the bustling M. M. Alam Road, Ghalib Market literally cuts through the urban palette of Gulberg.
Walking down the little streets there, one is completely taken aback by how quickly the whirlwind that is the urbanized feeling washes off. Like a fairly thick membrane, the sounds of the cars on the road, the hustle, and bustle of the city waking up from a soft afternoon slumber, starts to wane. Much like a dream, houses with old architectural designs line the street with long courtyards that hold bushes huddled next to the trees and their large gates let out only a peep into the lives of those who share in this spectacle every day.
The main street is just a few yards wide and portrays a neighborhood amidst changing time – and perhaps even comprehension. To many, this is just another street in another neighborhood. To me, it is a place I look forward to visiting. The market is built around a circular park. Even though it is merely one of the many markets in this sprawling city, it is an integral part of daily life for those who work for long hours in this area.
At about 2pm the place is filled with cars and trespassers – much like myself – daring to explore what food they can get their hands on. There are little children with their uniforms on, clinging to their mothers, people from different offices fetching a bite that can make the remaining five hours of labor worthwhile and women on a mission to get amazing clothes for the upcoming shaadi (wedding) season. Simply put, people with too much free time on their hands, and people with too little.
The market is known for its authentic, takeaway desi food. Its roadside eateries offer staples throughout the year such as chicken masala, chicken biryani, kabab masala – a favourite of my colleagues – and fried fish, a real treat in winters. The tea-time snacks and delicacies that really stand out are the samosas and gulab jamun (local sweet dish) here.
To one side of the market, there are fruit stalls lined up on the footpath. The apples here are the ripest; the oranges the brightest; the bananas the sweetest. The carefully stacked perishables are always a sight for sore eyes.
While Ghalib Market is known for its eclectic mix of savory, unhealthy, desi street food, it is also known for one-of-a-kind tailoring shops and buttons. These spherical, sometimes square-ish glittering gems can be easily sewn onto kurtas and pajamas, and draw quite a crowd. Other detailed artisanal adornments are available here too. One can marvel at the remarkable skill that goes into designing them.
It takes a while to get used to what you see in Ghalib Market. It is not fancy like the new malls that have sprung up around the city. But like an acquired taste, it slowly grows on you. A comforting and restorative place to while away a sunny winter afternoon or a cool summer evening.