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July 5, 2020

Ban on social gatherings hits livelihoods

Islamabad

July 5, 2020

Islamabad : Wedding bands, without which no grand city wedding was once considered complete, have been badly hit by the ban on social gatherings.

These bands were once a key feature of celebrations and festivities in the city now stare at extinction under the final blow of Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19).

“Alternative livelihoods are not easy to come by in these times. No baaraat, hence no band baaja. The pandemic has proved to be the final nail in our coffins,” says Shabbir Zaidi, sitting near Moti Mahal on the footpath along Nullah Leh.

“We are the people who used to earn our livelihoods from social gatherings and events, which are now banned to contain the pandemic,” says Hasan Raza, a colleague of Shabbir Zaidi sitting next to him.

Hundreds of shops of these bands lining the bazaars of the city remain closed. Murtaza Ali, owner of one of these shops, Grand Band, virtually broke down while describing the huge hit that people like him have suffered in the present crisis.

“We had recently purchased new dresses and musical instruments for our band groups comprising around 10 people each. The pandemic struck at the worst time as the wedding season had already started. We had several bookings and our biggest headache now is how to return the money we took from clients. It is difficult to survive in this financial crunch,” says Shahzad Hussain.

“The pandemic outbreak has dealt a big blow to our business. Bookings have virtually dropped. The band units are on the verge of extinction,” says Mohsin Naqvi, owner of Glorious Band located a few shops away from Sabzi Mandi.

“Similar is the plight of small caterers. They are among the worst hit by the pandemic and fear that their business may never be the same again. The pandemic might end but fear will continue to rule our minds. People will invite only a bare minimum of guests to weddings and other social events. We have already lost around 85 percent of our business,” says Sibte Hasan, owner of Golden Caterers in Raja Bazar, who has been in the business for over three decades.

Hotels and small food outlets are also facing losses. Hotels are not getting wedding and corporate bookings. Previous bookings have to be cancelled. Because of pandemic fears people are staying away. Waiters also lament that the pandemic has changed their lives as hotels and restaurants have resorted to cost cutting by retrenching employees,” says Shafqat Ali, a hotel worker.

“The physical distancing requirement has started to change our lives. We have to innovate and change our traditional modes of business to survive. We have to acclimatize to a new world post pandemic,” says Hasan Waheed, a hotel owner.