MUMBAI: This is last week of the holy month of Ramzan. But for the coronavirus-induced lockdown, Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazaar areas in South Mumbai would have been crazily crowded at this time. As food lovers from other parts of the city and beyond descended at the several eateries and the roadside food stalls to gorge on kofta, kebabs, malpuas, phirni and other Ramzan delicacies, the feasts that would begin with the muezzin’s call for the maghrib or evening namaz would stretch to sehri, the pre-dawn light meal. As the lockdown continues and food lovers are absent, the hardest hit are the restaurant owners and roadside food stall owners.
Mohammed Farooque who would sell sandale, an idli-like sweet dish at Mohammed Ali Road every Ramzan, sits idle near his house. “I would make between Rs 4 to 5 lakh in Ramzan. The business was so brisk that I would fail to meet the demand. This time I have not earned a single paisa,” said Farooque.
The lane that goes from the green-domed, iconic Minara Masjid off Mohammed Ali Road towards Khadak would be chock a block during the holy month with food lovers occupying every inch. Today an eerie silence grips it with the cops barricading the lane and guarding the area. Chinese N Grill, a popular restaurant here famous for Moghlai, Chinese food, is shut. “We would make six months’ earning in one month. Now it is difficult to pay the salary of the staff as there is no business except a few online orders,” said Chinese Grilled’s owner Salim Sarang. “The waiting period here during Ramzan would stretch to around and our.” They would come to eat its charcoal-grilled skewers and noodles and piping hot paya.
Businessman and foodie M A Khalid who loved goats’ tongue soup and paya at Chinese N Grill misses the buzz in Ramzan here. “I miss the aroma of food that wafted from here. But I also regret that thousands of families which depended on selling food and fruits in Ramzan are suffering. Many of them don’t have money to buy food for their own children,” said Khalid.
Walking through the area doesn’t seem it is the same Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazaar.The cloth market at Bhendi Bazaar where men and women shoppers jostled for space wears a deserted look. The perfumers, the henna sellers, the sellers of bangles, earrings and anklets are absent. “Is bazaar ki raunauq ja chuki hai (the charm of this bazaar is gone,” said Amin Parekh, a local. Middle-aged Parekh was born and brought up here. “I have never seen such a drab Ramzan in my life before,” he mourned.
Now the muezzin at the Minara Masid calls out the Isha or night prayers. But no worshippers are rushing to the mosque as they would do in previous years to offer regular Isha prayers and tarawih, the night prayers exclusively in Ramzan. They are fasting, praying and eating at home as the holy month nears its end on May 24.