The holy month of Ramzan has never been so quiet and gloomy in this part of Ahmedabad, where the aroma of Mughlai street food would waft through the streets by evening and the same street would convert into a wholesale market catering to the upcoming festival during the day.
Falling under a containment zone now for over a month, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) put out orders Wednesday prohibiting wholesales here even as the rest of the essential shops would open outside it, from May 15.
For shopkeepers at the traditional markets of the walled city of Ahmedabad, Ramzan is a time when their sales hit a peak. But with ongoing Covid-19 lockdown, traders at Dhalgarwad, Bhadra Chowk, Teen Darwaza, Pankornaka, Boot Bazaar and thousands of street vendors, locally known as Lari-Patharnawala, on the three-kilometre stretch are incurring huge losses.
From vegetables, fruits, ropes, fishing nets and hardware, to crockery, clothes, home furnishings and grooming accessories, this three-km stretch would have it all.
While Dhalgarwad is the well-known blockprint, ethnicwear and readymade wear market the Boot Bazar, the street of old Regal Cinema is known for affordable footwear shops. Other shops and street vendors in the business hub sell readymade clothes, hosiery, crockery, utensils, gift articles, electrical items, undergarments, carpets, belts and sun glasses.
“The month of Ramzan and the month preceding Diwali are the two months when we make most of our annual earning. We do around 30-40% of our yearly business in the month of Ramzan. But now, like all other businessmen, we also have no sales,” says Salim Khan, secretary of the Dhalgarwad Kapad Mahajan, a group of around 500 cloth merchants from Dhalgarwad. Khan owns a shop selling readymade clothes for women and children.
Another cloth merchant from Dhalgarwad, Mohammed Hussain Meman, says, “Due to lockdown, there is no business. But what is worrying is that even after lockdown, we do not see any hope. As the priority of people, right now, is to have basic essential food items. So, I don’t think that many people will come after lockdown as well.”
Expressing similar views, Usman Shaikh, who owns a mini-market of footwear in the Boot Bazaar says, “We have only three seasons of business; Ramzan, Diwali and the period of marriages. We face slumber in business for six months. The main season is the months of Ramzan and Diwali. Currently, there is no sale. To add to it, we are also facing the financial burden of the stock that we had already kept in stores for the season of Ramzan. Our entire investment on that stock is dead right now.”
Apart from the shop keepers, around 5,000 street vendors on the around 3-km long stretch in the old city also used to have a lot of customers during the Ramzan who come to buy items at affordable prices.
Zafar Shaikh, vice-president of Street Vendors’ Association, says, “The business has almost been zero for the past three months. But what is costing us dear is that the lockdown was imposed in the month of Ramzan.”
“We have invested a lot of money to collect stock for Ramzan. Now that investment is dead. Moreover, all those items that we stocked for the festival will either lose its quality or be outdated after two months. In readymade clothes for children and women, the patterns and fashion change in a month. Whereas, the footwear starts wearing out once it is kept unused for some days,” adds Shaikh.
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