Last year, during this time, streets in the old city of Vadodara and Surat were busy with vendors selling a variety of kababs, dry fine sevaiya, naans and dates during the holy month of Ramzan. But a year later, as the COVID-19 lockdown has brought life to a halt across the country, the same streets wear a deserted look, with food stalls and handcarts lined up in its alleys , gathering dust.
It is not a usual Ramzan – both for believers and traders.
Besides areas like Tandalja, Salatwada and Mandvi in Vadodara and the state’s popular Ramzan destinations include Rander, Zampa bazaar, Limbayat, Unn, Salabatpura, Sagrampura in Surat.
“During Ramzan, the mosques and food court areas used to be decorated with sparkling decorative lights. We used to have about three sweet items and two spicy items, along with with two types of sharbat and juice for iftaar. This year, only a few items are available in the markets. We just had a milk-made item and a spicy dish,” says Arif Nalbandh (45), a Surat resident working as a clerk at a private firm.
The picture is not very different in Vadodara. While the well-to-do families are able to afford their usual spread of Iftaar, the families from the lower income groups have been staying away from meats and sweets.
The local community leaders have distributed over 10,000 Ramzan kits to the poor families in the city, especially those in containment areas.
“We distributed kits to more than 10,000 families, which should last for a month for a family of seven . It contains about 23 kg of essential items for Ramzan like dates, groceries to prepare iftaaris, sugar, custard powder, sherbets and gram flour for frying fritters. We would have liked to distribute fruits as well but the administration advised against it,” says activist Zuber Goplani, who is part of the team of community members helping the administration.
The worst-affected section during this time are traders who used to earn their income for the whole year during the Ramzan sales.
Ahmad Shaikh (38) a resident of Tandalja, used to set up a stall of sevaiyya and breads every year. But this year, Ahmqd says, he has been facing acute crisis.
“Every year, I sell about 3,000 kg of sevaiyya in the entire month and soft breads for iftaari. This year I haven’t been able to make any vermicelli because fetching the raw material was difficult with no money in hand. My own family is having a Ramzan with almost nothing on the iftaari mats. We just eat some fruits and simple homemade food. On the first day of Ramzan, I asked my wife to make falooda from the available items and told my children that we will have it again only on the last roza. They are still trying to understand why there is no iftaari feast this year,” he says.
“The Rander eatery bazaar is popular with large number of people from South Gujarat and Central Gujarat coming to eat non vegetarian dishes which are not available during the other months. The foot stall owners earn their 12 month income in the single month of Ramzaan. This year, they will also have to face losses,” Pramod Patel (42), a resident of Rander says.
For many believers, this might be the first Ramzan where they could not even go to mosques.
“This is an unusual Ramzan as we can’t even go to mosque and pray. Every year during Ramzan, we use to give cash as zakat (donation) to the poor. This year, we have distributed around 500 kits which will last a month to the needy including the migrant workers who are stranded here due to the lock down.” Shoeb Mansuri (42) a textile businessman says.
“We are trying to ensure that nobody sleeps hungry at night in Surat,” he adds.
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