Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 58, Tuesday September 26, 2006



Festival Spotlight

Eateries at Dawn

Waking up at the crack of dawn to smell the fresh air might be just the thing for health addicts, but there are others who would look at you as if you were a lunatic if you suggested something like that! Their expressions will change from shocked to surprised to irritated quickly as they figure out that they might actually have to wake up that early. How do I know all this? I had the chance to observe the change while trying to convince a few of my friends to accompany me on my nightly excursions to find elusive food places which are open even before dawn and offer delicious items for sehri.

If you are one of those people who would brave anything, traffic, rain, social stigmas, etc. to go somewhere and taste the gourmet delights that local places have to offer, then Old Dhaka is definitely the place for you. The place is a haven for food addicts, where many of the stores open around three to four in the morning. It's pointless to put down a list of all the names of the stores. There are just too many! But if you know the names of the roads, then you can definitely make it. The best thing about Old Dhaka is that all these food places are concentrated in certain well known roads, like Alauddin Road and Najimuddin Road. Get any rickshaw you can find at that time of the night, and you will reach the food sanctuaries in no time.

Another place that's worth trying out is the Moghbazaar Intersection where a few food places are famous for their food, and are open at the crack of dawn. I can recall the numerous times I went along with my friends in the middle of the night to satisfy our persisting hunger. Not once did we find the shops closed at even 4 in the morning. Tajmahal and Three Star are the places to get your sehri from- they are located right at the intersection.

ChokBazaar is also good for sehri even if you live twenty kilometres away. Even my laziest friends wake up at 3 in the morning to go to ChokBazaar and have the food there. Allauddin Sweetmeat is one shop that is famous for its morning breakfast, and the good news is that it will be open before sehri, which is perfect for food lovers during Ramadan.

Now, I have deliberately not given any addresses, as knowing them is simply not enough to get to the shops I have mentioned. But don't worry, even if you don't know where to go, ask any rickshaw puller to take you there, and on the way, you can always ask the locals for directions. The only available transport you are going to get at that time of the night are rickshaws, but the journey you make will definitely be more than worthwhile as will be the food that you are going to taste.

By Asifur Rahman Khan
Photo: Munem Wasif

Roohafza Iftar Bazaar

Getting the best of both sides

If you had to judge the quality and taste of all food available across the city Old Dhaka would be the winner without a doubt. I can recall the numerous times I went there to have my Iftar after a long hard day without any food. It's true that people living in far flung corners of the city can't really afford to take the time to go all the way to Old Dhaka for their gourmet delights all the time. But worry no more, because Elate Fervor Accord (EFA), a promising event management company, has taken the initiative to organize a month-long Iftar Bazaar in order for those people to taste the food of Old Dhaka without actually having to go there.

Roohafza Iftar bazaar is the first of its kind, where different people can taste the famous Old Dhaka delicacies as well as get other items to prepare Iftar on their own. This event is open for all, and various businesses, food shops and other entrepreneurs are giving stalls at the fair in order to give people a wider range to choose from. As informed by Ahbab, manager of business promotion and development of EFA, the main purpose for this is to make available to consumers the best delicacies from both the old and the new city in the same place. Normally, it's quite impossible to get the best of both sides at once, since getting to

Old Dhaka is in itself, quite an ordeal. However, with this event, not only are you getting the best of the two different classes of food, the prices at which these items are sold are also quite reasonable when compared to the market prices for the same items.

Although Ahbab confirmed that the prices are competitive, he says that EFA is not responsible for these directly, since they are set up by the stall holders. They can charge whatever they want. Most of the stall holders are seasonal businessmen, who are trying out their skills at this place, in which case, you can expect prices to be lower than the exorbitant prices charged by the traders on the roadside markets. EFA hopes to hold this event every year should this first endeavour prove to be a success. It is meant to blend two traditions, as the age old recipes of Old Dhaka are coupled with contemporary cuisine.

The event will start on the first day of Ramadan, and will be open from 2 in the afternoon till before the Tarabi prayers. Hopefully, it will fulfil its purpose, and give people the best of both worlds. It will be held in the Dhanmondi Rabindro Shorobor Prangon (the Amphitheatre right beside Dhanmondi 8, where countless people engage in adda). So try to be there to taste the gourmet delights that each stall has to offer!

By Asifur Rahman Khan
Photo: Amirul Rajiv


The Ramadan ironies

Life has its ways of offering its ironies. Ramadan happens to be a time when these ironies take centre stage. We all know that this is the month of moral and spiritual piousness, and there are some primary teachings to be followed: to curtail excessive behaviour, to be generous and so much more. So how good are we according to the codes of Ramadan? Do the ironies get a better hold of us?

Food is something everyone loves to indulge in. And during this month the magnitude of this indulgence extends a little further. Perhaps this has something to do with the festive mood. In any case, food has been closely associated with celebration since time immemorial. Incidentally, the month of fasting metamorphoses into a month of deep-fried food and cholesterol-charged sweets.

People refrain from eating the whole day… just to pounce on the dazzling assortment of food on the iftar table at dusk. One would eat like his life depended on it. This, however, is not the end. The cycle stretches to a very generous dinner and then, the sehri. Even the food concerned is not healthy- which is why most end up adding not only to their gustatory fulfillment, but also to their waist lines. Many more suffer from nutritional problems.

The shopping-mania that monopolises this month also needs to be shed light on. Ramadan is a month-long preview of paradise for the shop owners, if not for the others. Shopping malls are bustling with people loaded with more shopping bags than they can carry. Just when you thought they had enough shoes, bags, clothes and perfumes, the eyes stray to some things that are "even nicer".

To a certain extent, these shopaholics may be justified. What would Eid be without shopping for new clothes anyhow? Eid would not be as joyous, as merry, as complete if people were shunned form the malls. Nonetheless, shopping as a paragon of merriment does seem slightly outdated, given the fact that these days this is a common scenario all year round. The elders would say that shopping complexes were a rarity in their times, and that they were overjoyed by the smallest of things- maybe a piece of cloth and if lucky, a few accessories here and there. Today our demands are so abysmal, that nothing is ever really enough.

Wastage is also apparent in the form of excessive electricity usage. Shopping centres and public places (such as food courts and bowling alleys) drape themselves in electric lights. This is of course a part of the business policy- the flashiest venues lure in the customers and keep the cash counter well-fed.

Water is also lavishly wasted. The few hours before the iftar, the kitchen resembles a zoo with unlatched cages. In a hurry- and often to save the few seconds that it takes to open and close a tap- people keep the water running.

Ramadan, naturally, encourages being nice to the others and showing kindness. How much this is really being incorporated into our lives can be illustrated by the traffic scenario in the late afternoon rush hour. Everyone dashes out of the office, struggling to break through the mind-boggling traffic. Cars, rickshaws and buses all run on the same lane, and move in literally every direction possible. Imagine yourself stuck in the middle of this, with iftar only a few minutes away! Maybe then, you would not bother being "nice and kind". Rather screaming profanities at the top of your lungs would be more suited. The same thing happens when everyone returns home from work peevish.

It is true that very few people can be termed devout Muslims. Once in a while, you cannot help being a part of the Ramadan ironies. After all, it is this very irony that spices up the otherwise bland time of the year.

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2006 The Daily Star