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March 24, 2020

If ‘biryani man’ can have his food at home, what’s your excuse to go out?

Karachi

March 24, 2020

He would religiously eat biryani every Friday at a new food outlet. “After the Friday prayers, the most important thing I do is eating biryani — and then posting a picture of it on Facebook,” Muhammad Afnan Shakeel chuckles.

Afnan is an engineer. The nature of his work demands a lot of field work. “So, wherever I go for my work on a Friday, I don’t miss the chance to try out biryani at a new place,” he grins. “Sometimes it is a small biryani vendor, sometimes it is a hotel or a restaurant. But biryani is the fixed menu for Fridays.”

But this past Friday, Afnan did not go out — neither for work nor for biryani. “I am with my biryani at home, though,” he smiles faintly. Afnan posted two pictures of biryani, with the caption: “Stay Home & Eat Biryani”.

This too shall pass

With people being told to stay home in the wake of the COVID-19 scare, the super busy streets of Karachi are desolate and empty. The most affected people are the daily-wagers and those who do small jobs. Among them are the workers at restaurants, which have been directed by the government to only deal with takeaway orders, at least for 15 days.

“I am saddened to see that some big restaurant owners are firing their staff,” laments Adil Mehmood Arain, who owns a big restaurant in a Defence Housing Authority neighbourhood. “It is as if these affluent people can’t afford to pay salaries to their staff at this time of great depression.”

Arain says he is paying salaries to all his staff despite the slowdown. “It is a time of testing for us. My workers who used to be busy all day in the restaurant are now only dealing with takeaway orders. But as they say, this too shall pass.”

He says the crisis is showing the real character of human beings. “If we don’t pay salaries to our staff or fire them at this time, what options would they have to feed their families?

It would only increase the crime rate and we can also become a victim sooner or later.”

Tip them well

The food delivery riders who are risking their lives deserve hefty tips in view of the coronavirus crisis, stresses Arain. He says the government has taken the right decision to close down food outlets “because you never know who has the virus and can potentially infect others in the restaurant”. “But those who can afford it should take care of the food delivery riders by giving out some extra money to them.”

Online deliveries

Naima Anees is a widow who has two sons. She runs a small food business in a humble locality of Karachi. “My sons deliver homemade food to offices and residences,” she says. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, I am short of orders, as more and more offices are asking their staff to work from home.”

However, she adds, people in my area are supporting me by giving me food orders for their homes. “I am really scared for my sons because they are going out to deliver food to homes. But if they don’t go out for deliveries, how would we have food for ourselves?”

Let’s help each other

Afnan says “we should look around and help people at this time of crisis”. “While we have to care for ourselves, we should also financially help others. It’s time we got our biryani delivered at home and pay a good tip to the rider. It’s time we bought biryani from small vendors who are selling food from their homes.”

Afnan is hopeful that “the virus will go away soon” and he will be able to enjoy biryani at new places on Fridays. “But for now, we should stay home. We should listen to what the doctors and the government are saying. If we don’t act in accordance with the instructions, the virus can go far and wide, and we will not be alive to see people eating biryani on our funerals,” he takes a brief pause, adding that “even our families might not be in a position to serve food on our funerals if the virus goes crazy”.