When we were told that some interns would be going to Burns Road to nominate people for the Oral History Project, we volunteered immediately. We were excited at the prospect of being out of the office for a couple of hours; Little did we know that the trip would come to mean so much more than that.
Our first 'sight' and 'sound' of Burns Road was of a collision between a colourful jangling mini-bus and a shiny Alto. The colors of the bus, the cacophony of what seemed like a million car horns and the delicious smell of desi food defined Burns road for us in that very instant.
We met many people as we made our way along the narrow pathways of Burns Road, receiving a myriad of looks: some leering, disapproving, some excited and others just plain curious. Raana covered her head in a cautionary measure against some of the glares.
We looked out for any one over the age of 65 years. A flash of white beard would send us darting in the owners direction, trying to locate him in the swarms of people.
We met a Bengali man with his arm in a sling and his shirt-sleeves tied across his waist. When asked for his address, he proudly pointed to a truck stationed at a garbage dumping-site. We came across a 'chakki wala' who runs a welfare clinic and a cleric who lectured us, before abruptly asking us to leave his house. We needed to be prepared for all reactions - a gentleman in a nihari restaurant chatted away to us before noticing Nadir clicking away with his camera. He vehemently objected to being photographed. Two young waiters from the same restaurant, however, seized this opportunity to divert Nadir, posing together for a quick photograph. We stumbled upon a bewitching little shop, Tahir Masala, filled to the brim with every sort of masala imaginable - Murgh Masala, Paya Masala, Machli Masala... The owner, Tahir Junior, runs a welfare clinic in the area. While some may brand him a 'quack', he is a godsend in the area, slaving away in the heat and taking patients temperature, applying bandages and plasters. Tahir offered us a seat at the clinic and patiently heard us out while we talked about The Citizens Archive of Pakistan. He put up a CAP poster on his clinic walls, offered us lassi and gave us his blessings for the work we are doing.
We returned to the CAP office feeling hot and tired - but with huge grins, a dozens nominations for interviews, almost a hundred photographs and a box of delicious Fresco gulabjamun.
Raana Kazmi and Tabinda Siddiqi
Photographs by Nadir Siddiqui