The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Business, pleasure and bonds of the willow
- Pak traders arrive, late but laughing

They were to have reached Calcutta by December 20, but visa vagaries in Islamabad pushed back their arrival in the city by 14 days. They reached the city on January 3, after a 60-hour journey, via Dubai and Delhi. For the four Pakistani traders, the delay may have caused “some losses” in terms of business due to their no-show at the Industrial India Trade Fair (IITF) on the Maidan. But it’s the spirit that matters. For them, the “real gain” lies in finally being able to make it to Calcutta. The IITF got over on December 31, and the next fair, Bidhannagar Mela, will be between January 17 and February 3. The wait is well worth it.

“It’s clear that there won’t be any business in between. So, in the meanwhile, we are having a nice time in the city. We are cooking our own food and treating our friends in the city to some real Mughlai dishes,” said Mohammed Iqbal, on Thursday evening, in his Heera Holiday Inn room on Ripon Street. “We have been moving around freely, visiting places like the Science City and the Indian Museum. As we all are movie-buffs, we have decided to catch a few films over the next few days. The first on the list is Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer, which we have heard is based on communal harmony.”

Iqbal, who had to shuttle between the five Pakistani stalls during IITF to keep the show going, is a “relieved” man with the arrival of his fellow traders, Shafiq-ur-Rehman and Kaleemuddin from Karachi, Ahmed Hussain from Hyderabad and Ahmed Jamin from Sindh. “After waiting for over three weeks in Islamabad, 12 of us got the requisite clearances. The others backed out as there was no way they could take part in the Maidan fair, but we four decided to come to Calcutta,” said Rehman, lighting up his Benson & Hedges Milds.

For Rehman, this is the ninth visit to the city, where he has come even with his family a few times. The Maidan fair has become a part of his annual itinerary, which he doesn’t want to miss “for anything”: But, it’s an exploratory trip for Hussain, who has come for the first time to Calcutta with designer glass bangles. For Jamin, who deals in plastic melamine items, the Calcutta trip is “significant”, as it can boost his export volumes.

“India is a huge market and it’s indeed very important for us,” chorus the two young entrepreneurs, both members of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. All the visiting Pakistani businessmen made it clear that they try to come up with products that suit the tastes and preferences of people on this side of the contentious border.

“In your country, I come with products like idols of Ganesha and small puja mandirs made of onyx stone. And I really feel proud when these items are picked up by eager Indian customers,” said Rehman.

But it’s not only business that brings the Pakistani contingent here every year despite the odds, be it Kargil or Gujarat. “Here we feel at home and enjoy the love and affection showered on us,” added Rehman. While all of them were unanimous that better trade ties with India topped their wish list, they added that this was followed by the desire to see more cricket matches between India and Pakistan. “We all love the game and we were very happy on Wednesday when India finally beat New Zealand. We watched the whole match… We wish the authorities end the impasse and give the green signal for more matches between the two countries,” concluded Kaleemuddin.

Email This Page