If you can stand the stench, the animal stalls in Empress Market at Karachi are worth a visit, if only to get an insight into the sad lives of the animals that end up here. You will find every conceivable kind of animal on sale, from cuddly little Labradors to turtles. You will see exotic birds everywhere you look, dismally stuffed into tiny cages.
Most shopkeepers shy away from having their own pictures taken but love to show off their wares. They are also reluctant to say anything about how they get the animals.
If you are actually looking to buy, then you are not limited to what you see in the shop. Lots of times, the shop-keepers somehow manage to get you the animals from somewhere.
In this little corner of the market, dogs live right beside rabbits, who are stacked next to cats, who cosy up to ducks.
On our way out, I spy an elderly man lovingly feeding a monkey pieces of paratha, and petting the animal through the bars of a cage in a corner shop. This is the first time I have seen a shopkeeper here display affection for his charges. “Is this monkey your pet?” I ask. “No, but he is so cute,” the man replies. “And he loves paratha, see?” I do see, I say. If only all the problems here in Empress Market’s animal section were that easy to solve.