RAWALPINDI: The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic sweeping the globe has had widespread social, cultural and religious impact on people everywhere. No surprise then that it will impact the annual ritual of eating out for iftar and sehri on one of the three popular food streets of Rawalpindi.
These favourite haunts for foodies of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi will remain shut for Ramazan this year, the district administration has said.
The decision has been taken to ensure social distancing and to prevent the spread of Covid-19, officials said.
They added that that the administration has banned the operation of food stalls on the Kartarpura Food Street, Double Road Food Street and the Bank Road Food Street during sehri and iftar times.
As a result, people will be deprived of delicious and tasty traditional dishes which literally added flavour to their fasting month and turn it into a month of feasting.
Among the three, Kartarpura Food Street is the most important one in Ramazan for residents.
This food street offers traditional dishes such as siri paya (trotters), halwa, fried brain masala, halwa puri, sesame bread, kheer, kulfi, ice cream, and lentils for sehri while innumerable stalls of traditional dishes such as sweet lassi, curd, khoya and other dishes are also set up along this food street. Not only the people of Rawalpindi but those from as far away as Gujarat, Gujranwala, Lahore and Sialkot used to travel to the area to set up stalls in the food street during the holy month. But the epidemic will no longer let that happen.
There used to be such a rush of people on Kartarpura Food Street during Ramazan that the administration used to convert it into a one-way street just to manage the traffic flow, a resident said.
He added that additional police officers used to be deployed at peak traffic hours to ensure there was sufficient, and properly managed parking for food lovers converging on their favourite spots along the street.
Muhammad Yasin, a customer trying to find items to take home, said that his family frequently bought food from Kartarpura for sehri during Ramazan, but this time it will not be the case and that it will likely add to their frustration.
Mohammad Aqeel, who has been setting up a lassi stall on Kartapura for years, said that he would prepare lassi from 20 mounds of curd every day. However, he will not be able to make any income due to the closure of the market. He said that people who set up stalls in Kartarpura Food Street used to earn thousands of rupees in a month but this time everyone is worried because of the ban.
Aqeel added that the government should allow food stalls to operate if they follow the SOPs religiously during the month. The food street should be opened so that those who earn money by setting up food stalls can avoid unemployment and raise children.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2020.
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