Coronavirus Pune: Ramzan street-food fest hampered due to pandemic

Coronavirus Pune: Ramzan street-food fest hampered due to pandemic

Pune: For the first time in Pune, the glittering street food stalls and tents lining the narrow lanes of Kausarbag (Kondhwa), Camp and Mominpura will be missing during the holy month of Ramzan, which begins on Friday. And also, for the first time, food packets will be delivered by many caterers and individuals to people’s doorsteps, especially to those who are poor or have lost their jobs or business due to the pandemic COVID-19 lockdown since March 25.

Ramzan and Eid celebrations to be different
The lockdown has ensured that this time, when Muslims break their fast after sunset -- called iftar -- the usual bustling of streets and the delicious aroma of non-vegetarian food that Puneities have relished over the decades, will be absent. 

“We all have braced for this eventuality now. We have made our peace with the fact that this year, Ramzan and Eid celebrations will be totally different, “said Abid Sayyad, a resident of Kondhwa.

Over the years, Sayyad has been involved in social work during Ramzan and distributes food to the poor. He uses money from profits he earns from a sprawling temporary set-up in Kausarbag that sells a variety of delicacies -- mostly chicken and mutton. He has identified 1,500 families to whom his group, Kausarbag Foundation, will supply food.

Door-to-door food delivery
Salim Mulla, who indulged in charity work around Ramzan thanks to the bustling business at his food stall at night, is also gearing up for door-to-door deliveries of the iftar food. The work is being done under the banner of Maharashtra Wakf Liberation and Protection Task Force.

“We have a list of around 2,500 people. We have appointed a few people in every lane and locality who will distribute food in their area. They will not have to move out of their area, ensuring social distancing,” Mulla said.

Change in menu
Those delivering the food will exercise precautions that are vital to staying safe from Coronavirus. Delivery persons are local students and those who are out of work due to the lockdown. “The food will mostly be vegetarian,” he said, highlighting that the current circumstances have brought about this change in menu, which was predominantly non-vegetarian till last year.

It is expected to be a modest meal of Pulao or Biryani, a vegetable dish, roti, fruits, dates and a packet of milk. Chicken or mutton dishes would be added depending on its availability.

Sayyad said they might add non-vegetarian delicacies twice or thrice a week. Most of the caterers noted that the demand they have placed for chicken with their suppliers is about one-third of what they were procuring last year.

Food stalls shut this year
Imdadi and a few pockets in Camp where the feast used to be rolled out in the evening during Ramzan will now be shut. Caterers are divided about their plan of action once, and if, the lockdown is lifted on May 3. Some say it’s better to stay home while some are mulling going back to business in what would be the second week of Ramzan. 

Increasing number of foodies 
A low key affair till 2007, Pune witnessed a boom in the way iftar street food stalls began to operate with Kausarbag and Camp emerging as a must-visit place during Ramzan. Till then Mominpura near Swargate had been the only place where stalls were put up during Ramzan.

Till last year, streets were lined with shops and stalls selling Biriyani, kebabs, tandoori chicken, mutton kebabs, and other special dishes in addition to desserts. 

A couple of years ago, Imdadi Group Chairman Musaffa Shaikh told Sakal Times that, “Till date, during the festival of Ramzan, neither the delicacies have changed, nor the taste of the food has changed. The only change we notice is the increasing number of foodies from other religions participating in the feast of iftar,” indicating the participation of people from all walks of life in the evening feast. 

The enormous monetary losses are being ignored at a time when human life is at risk.

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