Delhi Diary: Late-Night Meals And Hectic Shopping During Ramadan

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By Shakir Husain
NEW DELHI, June 12 (Bernama) -- For now, the kurta-pajama attire for men is probably as widely popular in India as Baju Melayu in Malaysia.

This clothing is high in demand during many festival seasons, the upcoming Eid Al Fitr is one such occasion. As Muslims in India prepare to celebrate the Islamic festival these garments are on their family shopping list.

Cotton and linen are the most preferred fabrics for making them, but there is no dearth of variety for those who fancy fashion.

Shanu Alvi, manning a sales counter at a popular clothes store in Delhi's Batla House market, says the month of Ramadan is the busiest time of the year for him.

"Most people buy many pairs for themselves as well as their family and relatives. It's essential Eid shopping," he said.

Shopping during Ramadan in the Batla House market and the adjacent Zakir Nagar market, located in congested Muslim neighbourhoods, is hectic between sunset and midnight.

It is one of the areas of Delhi that pulsates with activity in Ramadan, with shops stocking up on goods such as dry fruits, food items, textiles and clothes, and households products.

Restaurants and food outlets open until early hours to cater to Muslims who fast from dawn to dusk during the month.

People from other parts of the normally early-to-bed Indian capital also throng the area to enjoy the Ramadan vibe, shopping and food.

The big crowds should mean brisk business but shopkeepers say this year's sales have been unimpressive.

"The cost of living has increased. People are not spending as much this time," said Waseem Qureshi, who put up a stall selling melamine crockery.

"Seventy per cent of those you see in the market are not buying. Previously those not buying were no more than 30 per cent. That's the difference this year," Qureshi said.

A few shops away, Noor Mohammed selling vermicelli, a popular item during the fasting month, sat idle.

"You can see yourself there are not many customers. The month is almost over and I have not replenished my stock due to low demand," he said.

Zubair Ahmed, a dry fruit vendor, is worried that he may not be able to clear his stock of dates by the Eid holiday.

Traditionally eaten at the iftar meal, dates are mostly imported into India from West Asia.

Many Muslims buy goods not only for their own consumption but also for charity. In the spirit of caring and sharing, donations are made and food is organised at iftar for the less privileged.

However, rising consumer prices and wage pressures tied to the larger Indian economy have dampened this sentiment.

Non-essential spending is being kept under check and its impact is most visible on shops selling fashion and jewellery. However, restaurants seem untouched by this trend.

"We get no time to relax until we close at 3.00 o'clock in the morning," said Mahtab as customers lined up outside his restaurant famous for nihari, a meat dish slow-cooked with thick spicy gravy.

The Zakir Nagar area has emerged as Delhi's new hub for Mughlai cuisine and its reputation adds to the unique Ramadan atmosphere.