The last few days in the run up to Eid ul Fitr have always been filled with activity. Unfortunately, the situation has changed drastically since last year with the spread of Covid-19
The last few days in the run up to Eid ul Fitr have always been filled with activity. On expects to see streets, markets, shopping malls and eateries crowded. During the holidays and in the leading to the feast streets and bazaars are so busy that finding one’s way through the sea of shoppers often becomes a challenge. Visits to relatives, friends and acquaintances have also been the norm especially for people who enjoy spending time outside. One of the most common activities is going out shopping at markets that remain open throughout the day. Tailor shops are perhaps the most crowded of all places around Eid. Inside, customers are found arguing and insisting upon timely delivery of their Eid outfits. In addition, there are the never ending family meet-ups and get-togethers.
There has traditionally been no restriction on such activities. Mobility too has not been an issue. One can make plans any moment and start executing them the next. There would, for example, be floodlit tennis or cricket tournaments in one street and mahaafil-i–naat (naat recital gatherings) attended by a large number of people in the other. As the days leading to Eid are getting warmer and people lack energy while fasting, life would come to full swing after iftar. People would step outside and go for long walks, drives or meet-ups with friends and relatives. On weekends many would return home after having sehri at busy traditional food outlets offering dishes like nihari, halwa puri and murgh chanay and sleep throughout the day.
Unfortunately, the situation has changed drastically since last year with the spread of Covid-19, which has made it difficult to carry out many of the activities mentioned above. A strict lockdown was imposed last year to stop people from mixing up and crowding spaces. This year it is even stricter. Till the filing of this report (which is a couple of days before Eid), the situation is that all the shops except those dealing in essential commodities are closed and public transport is not available. If one has to travel by taxi or rickshaw, no more than 50 per cent occupancy is allowed. Inter-city buses and trains are also running at reduced capacity.
TNS asked people how they were dealing with the lockdown and about their plan for Eid.
Azhar Ali, a salesman from Rahim Yar Khan working in Lahore, says he has nothing to do and must stay at his flat all the time, watch movies and cricket on sports channels and try to go to sleep during the day. At night, he wears his mask and goes out for a walk in the street where he sees very few people.
A strict lockdown was imposed last year to stop people from mixing up and crowding spaces. This year it is even stricter.
After completing his walk, he buys essential groceries and returns to his flat with no plan for the morning. When he was asked by a policeman why he was roaming in the street needlessly, he started carrying a steel utensil to give the impression that he was going to buy yogurt or milk.
Ali was hoping to go to Rahim Yar Khan to spend Eid with his family but he does not want to take any risks. “What if they extend the lockdown, ban intercity travel and I am unable to join my job in time?” His fears are not out of place because this is what had happened last year when the lockdown was extended and made stricter.
Kashif Hussain, a master’s student, tells TNS that he continues to meet his friends. He says they strictly follow the safety SOPs. He adds that they have modified their routines according to the conditions. Instead of dining out they now cook their food themselves or have it delivered at home. Hussain says he used to play cricket in Ramazan which he still does but on a limited scale. “We play under street lights and disperse the moment the police come patrolling. Some of the precinct policemen have become our friends and sometimes do allow us to play as long as we do not make a noise.”
While the lockdown has forced a change of routines for most people, there are those who have suffered a lot financially. Fayyaz Nadeem, a middle-aged Uber driver, is one such person. His earnings have plummeted due to lockdowns because there are hardly any passengers looking for a ride. Earlier, he says, there would be people looking for ride-pooling but now the police do not allow this. He says he also tries to avoid long rides because not many motor workshops are open. In case there is an issue with his car, he may be stranded for quite some time.
For Jameel Ahmed, the lockdown does not come as much of a shock. He says his family and him were done with their Eid shopping and preparations well before time. He says he and many others like him would shop even after iftar in markets where shopkeepers kept shutters down but the business was as usual. He says he will say his Eid prayers at a mosque close to his house and go to his brother’s house for a get together after that. About Eid preparations, he says, this time it will be about eating and sleeping and staying clear of crowded places. “We could not buy certain things because the paramilitary forces have set up pickets in many markets to discourage the practice of continuing business with shutters down”, he concludes.
The author is a staff member and can be reached at [email protected]