Timber Market: Wood-works and Rubber Soles
The Timber Market in Lahore revealed itself to me as a true misnomer. When envisaging the timber market, prior to my visit, I had imagined it packed with lumber shops. I pictured lanes of warehouses and workshops, the air saturated with the smell of freshly cut wood.
It was with that mental image that I arrived at the timber market on a Monday morning. The sun blazed unapologetically and everything- be it vehicles, walls, or men- radiated heat without reserve. Upon arrival I was let down, to say the least. The timber market turned out to be a small industrial locale. After loitering about for an hour I discovered that the area was mostly populated by footwear manufacturers. I came across a few wood shops, their owners languidly staring ahead, heat-induced lethargy was apparent on their faces.
Double-story buildings stood on either side of the timber market, wires running across them like vines. The traffic was scarce. Workers, carrying heavy goods on their backs, moved about efficiently. With their spines bent, they worked and sweated generously. They were silent with their voices dissolved under the servility, which harsh physical labor drives hard into one’s soul.
I quickly realized that the vicinity was not confined to timber business alone. Huge generators bellowed with mechanical rapidity. They emitted smoke as if they were the only hideous lungs which kept the Timber Market alive.
Apart from men and machines, donkeys and mules were abundant in the marketplace. Close to the timber market, there was a small park. There were no children inside but tired workers sprawled under the trees.
As I wandered farther into the heart of the Timber Market, the odor of rubber and leather rippled in the air with unrelenting vigor. I’m sure if I had stayed inside any longer my mouth would have tasted like the sole of a shoe.
In the main chowk, where fruit carts and paan shops cohabited, I came across a few swans picking out insects from a brown puddle of water. In another alley, a young man was baking rotis in a tandoor. A yellow cat ran past me without heeding my coaxing sounds and gestures. Men seemed to talk in whispers as the vain growling of huge machines suppressed the noise of every other creature. What struck me as strange was the fact that every street had a few trees sidling up to the shops. Perhaps for the sake of providing shelter for workers, from the summer sun.
Walking around, I landed in a little tea shop with a thatched roof and greasy brown tables. Laborers sat around me, drinking tea in complete silence. I took a strong cup of tea and relished it, while a swarm of flies revolved overhead. I soon headed home and fell into a deep numb slumber, exhausted after endless walking in sun.