The everlasting magic of iftar evenings in Delhi markets

September 12th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 12 (IANS) The cherished moment at sunset is iftar, time to break the roza, truly a time of bliss when after a hard day the family reunion is there at home. Bubbling with a festive feeling, iftar evenings are eagerly looked forward to by one and all for the camaraderie, shopping and satisfying the palate.Frankly speaking, the Ramadan ambience is the same in all the old cities, whether it be Bhendi Bazaar of Mumbai, Sabzi Bagh of Patna, Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad, Kolutola of Kolkata, Mehdi Bagh of Pune, Dubhaiji ka Khura in Jaipur, Bhaga Talab at Surat or Channam Pilli Bazaar of Bangalore.

Muslim habitations like Dilli Chhe (Delhi - six i.e. Old Delhi) including Jama Masjid, Bara Hindu Rao, Ballimaran, Chooriwalan and Chandni Mahal; Zakir Nagar and Noor Nagar in the capital’s south; and Seelampur in the east are all aglitter with dazzling lights and throb with life and get ready every day with iftar savouries like khajoor, sheermaal, phulki, pakodi, kachalu, khajla, pheni, sewaiyan and… the list is inexhaustible!

Iftar is the prime time of the month-long Ramadan fast that ends with the glorious Eid. One is led by the olfactory senses to the lanes and by-lanes of the old Shahjahanabadi Delhi and other Muslim areas during the month of Ramadan to savour iftar feasting.

Temporary and crude eating arrangements are set up by the roadside for the evening iftar with tables covered with cheap plastic sheets, offering a tantalizing food bonanza. The lights that illuminate the grand Shahjahani Jama Masjid make the Ramadan ambience graceful.

These areas come alive soon after the Zuhar Namaz (afternoon prayers) with eateries popping up at every conceivable nook and cranny for the iftar.

The shops are illuminated with a riot of colourful lights. Film music gives way to Quranic cassettes and Na’ats (hymns in praise of Prophet Mohammed).

One can’t ignore the mouth-watering Ramadan dishes that street vendors sell on push carts or even those squatting by the roadside selling seekh kebab, qeema samosa, desi ghee jalebis, etc. Rows and rows of shops with neatly stacked Ramadan sweets bustle with human activity.

Unique Bakery at Zakir Nagar is ready with its special sehri (early dawn Ramadan food) sweet bread. So also is the case with Doodh Bhawan at Zakir Nagar Main Road that remains open throughout the day during Ramadan.

Grilled delicacies like chicken changezi, shaami kebab, naan and nargisi koftey are all there to be gorged along with chana chhola, chane ki daal et al, providing a grand Ramadan ambience.

Urdu Bazaar’s twinkling lights, flashing neons - Hotel Vakil, Haji Hotel, Fish Point, Kallan Sweets, Kutubkhana-e-Azizia - all turn into a kind of blazing glory the moment the muezzin gives the call for the azaan prayer from the minarets of the nearby mosques.

As you walk past the mosques, inside you see a sea of white-capped heads rising and bowing in a synchronized manner. Perhaps no one is as attentive during prayer as these devout are for Ramadan. During the minutes the namaz is conducted every evening, a sort of calm steals over the otherwise traffic congested areas.

After the iftar feast, while walking through Chitli Qabar Road and Matia Mahal you can buy the cheapest and best pyjamas, women’s salwar suits and jootis, bed sheets, jewellery and even attar (perfume) at shops like Amaan Garments, Attar House, Abdul Ghani Mohammed Ismail Attar Farosh and Fashion Zone. In Zakir Nagar in south Delhi, The Fashion Gallery of Aftab Bhai sells designer kurtas ranging between Rs.100 and 1,000. Connoisseurs of good cotton and handloom kurtas come here from far and wide.

Ramadan is also associated with caps for prayers. Shan Cap House proprietor Mohammed Faisal says that caps are in great demand. There are at least 1,000 varieties of caps like Alif, Farooque, Bukis and Damishq.

Very attractive discounts are available at almost all the shops, be it the Attar House at Jama Masjid or the Shandar Cloth Market. A bright but badly written and spelt banner flutters in Ballimaran announcing a “SPECIAL SAIL” at Al-Haaj Bakery. Carry on, Ramadan!

(Firoz Bakht Ahmed can be contacted at firozbakhtahmed07@gmail.com)

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