Eid 2020: A quiet celebration in Mumbai during lockdown

Updated: May 25, 2020, 07:34 IST | Dhara Vora Sabhnani | Mumbai

Owners of three popular eateries from Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazaar speak about Eid and Ramzan under lockdown

A file picture of some of the goodies at Suleman Mithaiwala at Mohammad Ali Road, which has had to shut shop
A file picture of some of the goodies at Suleman Mithaiwala at Mohammad Ali Road, which has had to shut shop

A walk down Mohammed Ali Road and the back alleys of Raudat Tahera during the month of Ramzan usually offers a mix of festive chaos, and the aroma of kebabs. Mumbaikars belonging to various localities and religious communities come together and celebrate food till midnight every day. The situation this year, however, has been unlike any in the past due to the lockdown. Owners of three famous eateries from the locality paint a lugubrious picture of celebrations in times of COVID-19.

Labourers return home
It's not just kebabs and shawarmas but the hundreds of earthen bowls of phirni, glasses of colourful falooda and trays of barfi heaped in front of the sweet stores of Mohammed Ali Road that complete the gratifying picture of the food that the locality offers. Irfan Mithaiwala of Suleman Mithaiwala sells various sweets, including the famous Aflatoon. But for the first time since the shop opened in 1989, Mithaiwala has shut production. "All my labourers have returned to their native places. Initially, we managed home deliveries, but eventually, everyone left for their hometown and we had to shut down," said Mithaiwala, who has an outlet in Mumbai Central. He adds that he doesn't know when will they reopen.

"At our restaurant, Delicate'ssen, we are only doing deliveries via online platforms. But we aren't earning anything, it's more of service to people now. Business is less than five per cent of the usual," said Mithaiwala of his fast-food restaurant.

"My father's 74 and says he has never seen such a situation in his lifetime," said young Aamir Hatim Icecreamwala of Bohri Mohalla's famous Taj Ice Cream, which has been in existence for over 130 years now. Their outlet in Bandra East is shut, and the original store is surviving on orders from online portals. "We get the maximum footfall during Ramzan and it's free advertisement for us as people from everywhere come to our store," said Icecreamwala. He added that some of his staff is keen on going back to their native places too.

'Not enough to pay staff'
Noor Mohammadi Hotel's famous Nalli Nihari, which counted artist MF Husain as a fan, has few takers. Owner Khalid Hakim, who has been working here since his childhood with his father, said, "Not just us, many people who set up stalls earn enough in these 15 days to last them a year. Now online orders are so few that it isn't enough to pay the staff." The restaurant is also known for Chicken Sanju Baba, a recipe by actor Sanjay Dutt. But what Hakim's missing the most he said, is the secular spirit. "For people who love eating, Ramzan is incomplete without a trip to Mohammed Ali Road. We would have a one-hour waiting list, and there would always be more non-Muslim names on it," reminisced Hakim.

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