Most of us do not know that the things we use in our homes and see displayed on the shop shelves come to us after a whole process of toil which is happening right in our city. Okay so we know about the carpenters and the painters and the iron rod walay and the darwazay walay. A couple years ago, I came across the marble walay. I must admit as much as it seems gloomy to explore the surroundings where they work, it is fascinating to see the machines, the processes and the methods out of which a marble or an onyx block is carved and crafted into a shiny object we see today.
Alright so see the pictures below.
Familiar? Yes these are the onyx (a semi precious stone occurring in bulks in Pakistan, available in hues of green, brown, red, black and white) products in a local shop at Zainab Market. Who hasn’t been to Zainab market in Karachi? Lined with piles of affordable shirts and jeans, the market also has small congested shops where you can find decorative pieces and other items fashioned in onyx and marble. Grope around and you see these little apples and oranges neatly fashioned out of onyx to big birds and vases on display.
There is a long broad road which runs from the ends of Liaqatabad till the areas of Bara Board in Karachi. Either sides of the road are crammed with marble tile vendors. The kind of products that you can see above are made by otherwise nondescript laborers who work in tiny factories located within the streets of Bara Board, Water Pump and Purana Golimar.
The stone workers work in small factories, from morning till night, covered in soot and dust. Considering the bulk quantity of articles produced, the workshops are so small and dingy that one could hardly accommodate a machine and the worker himself excluding the stone items they make.
Machines used are huge cutters, band saws and lathes. With dust flying everywhere and booming machine noises, the laborers carry on with the processes required to craft an article out of a block of onyx all day long. The creations are finally polished and stored.
The kind of labor available here in Karachi is unparallel to any other. Within minimum wages, almost no facilities and very little workshop spaces, extremely finished quality onyx and marble products are produced and exported all over the world. Sadly due to a sharp decline in the sales and because of the same old, conventional designs available since decades, the export and the local sales rates have dropped 90%. The business is running out of customer demands. Only if new designs of more functional products and better facilities for the working conditions of the laborers introduced, one can expect the rise of the marble and onyx products again, as it should be.