As the sun starts to fade in the Muslim holy 30 days of Ramazan, volunteers begin fixing classic delicacies and juices on scores of tables at various points of Karachi’s main University Way. Others roll huge artificial floor mats on the stony footpaths and thus fill them with foods. Motorists pull over hurriedly and join little crowds of people of all ages previously gathered around the tables or occupying the plastic material floor mats. As the call for maghrib ( sunset ) prayer resounds from a local mosque, they break their quick.
Another number of volunteers hand packets of foods and bottles of drinking water and also fruit juice to the fasting people relaxing in their vehicles and also open public transport, who do not opt to quit. Some 50 meters away, various group of volunteers makes preparations for dinner to be served soon after iftar ( fast-breaking ). This all creates a brief traffic jam at this portion of the road.
Each Ramazan, 100s of stalls are set up at the corners of city highways by relief organizations and local residents where homeless people, distributors, rickshaw and taxi drivers, laborers, beggars and even those who do not fast are offered free food and juices for the whole month. At various points, dinner is also served. A few individuals had begun to organize roadside iftar during Ramazan for needy people in Karachi 2 decades ago, which now has become a tradition.
In no time, this tradition was adopted by scores of other cities including the capital Islamabad, where roadside iftar stalls feed tens of thousands of people during Ramazan. A lot so, the country’s tiny Sikh community has been hosting iftar for Muslims in the historic Qissa Khawani Bazaar and at a few other points in Peshawar for the final several years. “This is my sixth yr to break the fast here,” Abdul Hameed, an Afghan refugee, told Anadolu Agency at a roadside stall on the University Road in Karachi.
Hameed together with his further co-workers works as a scavenger in the city’s eastern district far from his residence, and cannot afford to buy iftar.”Mostly, we cannot reach the house on time due to traffic jams and scanty transport. This ( roadside stall ) has resolved the iftar issue,” he added. The fasting people are offered traditional delicacies — including samosa, pakora, fruit chaat, dates, and juices. For dinner, biryani ( a spicy mixture of rice and meat ) is the favorite dish of the people of Karachi.
"At minimum in Ramazan, we completely fill our stomach,” Hameed declared in a lighter vein. Abdullah, a rickshaw driver is another frequent visitor of this site during the holy month. “It’s tough for me to go home and come back to work. Here, I get good and enough food, and save money that I spend on my family,” he said to Anadolu Agency. Zar Mohammad, 1 of the organizers, declared he together with his friends and philanthropists has been planning no cost iftar meals for the final 20 yrs in a row.
"From 1st to final ( evening ) of Ramazan, we break our fast with these people here. sometimes our families also join us,” Mohammad, who is also a prayer leader at a mosque, said to Anadolu Agency. About finances, Mohammad declared the friends and families themselves, area shopkeepers, philanthropists, and even common citizens, all chip in to organize the event throughout the month. "We do not have to run here and there for finances.
A month before ( Ramazan ), we simply begin to chip in and by the end of the month, we have plenty of funds to control this all,” he declared. "It has become a set tradition now. People trust us, and hand over a large amount even without disclosing their names.”
Around 1, 000 people, adding in travelers, are served the meal each day during Ramazan, according to Mohammad. Bhopal Singh, who arranges iftar in Qissa Khawani Bazaar in Peshawar, declared he was pursuing the mission of his late father who worked for interfaith harmony in the nation.
"For the final 4 years, I had been arranging iftar for my Muslim brothers here. But this year, we have changed the strategy due to security threats,” Singh said to Anadolu Agency, referring to threats received by the organizers this past year from some militant groups that objected to their gesture.
"Unfortunately, some elements do not want interfaith harmony here,” he regretted, saying: "Therefore, this year we are distributing ration among needy Muslims, and arranging iftar for prisoners in jail to avoid any mishap.” Monis Shaikh, a student of commerce at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in Karachi, was excited as it was his 1st day as a volunteer.
"This is our 1st day to serve here,” Shaikh declared with a nervous smile on his face, pointing at a group of 8-10 students who were given instructions by an organizer. The team plans to volunteer throughout the remaining days of Ramazan. "Allah has blessed us with everything. It’s our duty to serve and help his creation. This is the real message of Ramazan,” he declared.