PESHAWAR: Come Ramazan, one often hears of vendors hoarding groceries and hiking their prices despite the government’s best efforts to keep them affordable.
Not so for Jamrud, it seems. For the last 40 years, the members of one Sikh family at least have made sure that their fellow Muslim townspeople are able to purchase essentials for low prices at their shop every time the holy month comes around.
“As soon as Ramazan begins, we announce special prices on all items for the benefit of our Muslim brothers and other community members,” said Naranjan Singh, a late thirty-something who manages the shop.
“We do this every year, not just for Ramazan but 12 Rabiul Awwal as well. We also set up a special sabeel (free drink stall) for Ashura procession participants every Muharram,” he told The Express Tribune. “My father carried out this practice before us and my grandfather before him. We continue it because we believe it is a virtuous deed and a service to society.”
Naranjan said his family strongly believes in standing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow townspeople on every occasion that is special to them. “My family has lived in Jamrud since before the partition,” he added. “We are part of this community and its other members, Muslims in particular, have been there for us both in moments of celebration and grief.”
At his family’s shop, the rates for essential items Naranjan has displayed appear to be much lower than the ones set by the government. This means hundreds of people belonging to both poor and middle classes throng to it. As he tries to keep pace with the number of customers, Naranjan is assisted by his son Garmeet.
But selling items at low prices is not the only service Naranjan’s family performs for the people of Jamrud in Ramazan. According to another member of his family, Minority Youth Assembly Minister Baba Gorpal Singh, they also sift and clean the grains they sell to make sure they are unadulterated.
“The women in our family do this themselves. They bring home the supply of lentils, chickpeas, beans and other grains to remove any stones and other impurities,” Gorpal said. “Every effort is made to ensure none of our Muslim brothers face any difficulty in Ramazan.”
Needless to say, Naranjan and Gorpal’s family has won widespread praise and appreciation from the residents of Jamrud. “As soon as Ramazan arrives, the prices of essentials shoot up everywhere,” complained Jamrud native Mohsin Afridi. “To our delight though, we have Naranjan and his shop to buy food and other items at affordable rates.”
Not alone in winning Muslim hearts
Naranjan and his family are not the only Sikhs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa trying to make the lives of their fellow Muslims easier in Ramazan. Where they go out of the way to make essential goods as affordable as possible for Jamrud residents, other members of K-P’s Sikh community keep alive the old tradition of preparing iftar for Muslims observing the fast. In Peshawar city, the Sikh community has, like previous years, arranged an iftar at Chowk Fawara in the Saddar area.
“This is how we find inner peace,” said Balair Singh, a Sikh volunteer who helped prepare the iftar. “We try our best to arrange as many iftar banquets as possible.”
“The Sikh community of Peshawar has been doing this every year for a long time now,” said a Muslim youth from Mohalla Jogan Shah, traditionally a Sikh neighbourhood in Peshawar. “Even Sikh children take part in arrangements. This is such an inspiring example of interfaith harmony.”
A labourer working in the vicinity of Chowk Fawar too hailed the Sikh community’s role in arranging iftars. “This is a real service for those like me, who face difficulty in arranging iftar for themselves,” he said.
Back in Jamrud, another resident noted that it is no secret that most Muslim vendors all over Pakistan hoard goods to jack up prices in Ramazan. “They could learn a thing or two from Naranjan, his family and other Sikhs in K-P who show courtesy, respect and love to their fellow Muslims, particularly in the holy month,” said Gul Afridi.