Bailey Road's Iftar Market
As the sun is about to set and the countdown for Iftar begins, like every other road in Dhaka, Bailey Road is crowded with motorists in a hurry to reach home and enjoy their iftar with their family or loved ones. Many in this crowd in Bailey Road are also in a hurry to buy food to take home.
“Every afternoon during this month, after finishing work, I try to get jilapi from this place,” says Qamrul Ahsan, who lives in Kakrail and works for an international organisation. Looking at the long queue, it was not difficult to fathom his thoughts. “Today I will probably have to look somewhere else,” he says, trying to suppress a sigh. It looks as though long before the gentleman can reach the front counter, the shop will be well out of the jilapis for which this particular store Rash is so famous. Every afternoon, before iftar, Rash, a famous sweet shop, is packed with a long queue of customers trying to buy jilapis. Judging by the long queue and a price tag of Tk 220 per kilogram, almost a hundred more than the average price, it is easy to see that even in this street famous for its quality food, Rash has something special. “Maybe it is the ghee,” says Qamrul. Unlike other shops, Rash's special jilapi is prepared with a unique recipe that justifies the extra 100 taka.
|In 1986, this market was started with only three items, now it has120.
Qamrul hardly needs to worry. Even if Rash is out of jilapis, or rash malais, or anything else he wants or needs, all he has to do is cross the street and look for another shop, as in Bailey road, something that is not lacking is food shops. Opposite Rash, there are other food joints whose names are immediately identifiable with the city's food lovers. Pitha ghar, Skylark, Swiss, the Golden Food, the list of names just goes on and on, and in the month of Ramadan all of them compete with each other in selling iftar, for which Bailey Road has earned quite a reputation. As the afternoon approaches, the food stalls literally come to the streets as the pavements are occupied by vendors from these food shops, selling haleem, jilapi, beguni, peyaju and all sorts of iftar items. Another food shop that does particularly well during Ramadan is Mama Peyaju.
However, the food market that has given Bailey Road its reputation as the 'Chawkbazaar of New Dhaka' is the famous Capital Iftaar Bazaar. “We are originally residents of the old town,” says Mohammad Jalaluddin, one of the four brothers who own the place. “We had a concept, combining Old Dhaka's tradition with New Dhaka's sophistication and with this concept, we have opened this market where we hope that the New town's residents can enjoy Old Dhaka's iftar.” He explained that since Dhaka is expanding at an almost impossible rate, it has become difficult for the residents of these parts of Dhaka to go to Chawkbazaar and enjoy the famous iftar available in that part of the city for generations immemorial.
“In 1986, we started this market with only three items, which have quickly reached to120. The price of our iftar items range from Tk 3 to 300, and it is not a market just for the wealthy but within the reach of all,” says Jalaluddin. “That is not the end of it. After this week is over, we will expand our market to include almost 200 items. This trend has been going on for the last four years. ” And that is the time when Capital Iftar Bazaar really starts to bear a passing resemblance to the actual Chawkbazaar. At the same time, it might not be totally accurate to define Bailey road as New Dhaka's Chawkbazaar. For one thing, Chawkbazaar is matchless and timeless, the long line of roadside shops having withstood the changing times are still providing their customers with Old Dhaka's best as they had done for generations. There is no other place in the world that can match Old Dhaka's unique recipe, which, as regular visitors to Chawkbazaar claim, only gets better with time.
Bailey Road, on the other hand, reminds us of more modern times. Side by side with the traditional iftar stalls, that sell food from the pavements or as in the case of a shop called Wize Corner, where they actually sell food from their windows, there are the fast food joints including the two international franchise shops, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut that stand side by side providing their customers with a more Western food trend. The Western oriented fast food shops, however, during this special month adjust accordingly to suit the demands of their consumers. Pizza Hut provides a special iftar offer. Under the terms of this offer, a customer can have all they want for Tk 550. The record for this year till now stands at 21 slices, though Pizza Hut authorities expect the record to improve as the Ramadan goes by. Then there is Bangladesh Fried Chicken (BFC), not quite an international franchise but which provides their customers with a more spicy preparation that suits the Bengali tongue. There is Al Baik, although the name sounds Arabic, it is more of a Chinese restaurant but like others adapt accordingly for providing dishes during iftar. Al Baik's offers include a strange combination of peyajus and prawn balls. Helvetia, Swiss and Jolly Bee are also very popular fast food outlets for those dining out in Bailey Road.
“Our guests prefer high quality and a variety of dishes,” explains Md Abu Hassan Rana, Branch Manager of Helvetia, “Keeping that in mind, we have prepared Arabian sweets and Mexican dishes such as Mexican Burger and Chicken Fajitas to make sure our customers get maximum satisfaction from visiting our place. During the month of Ramadan, our normal seating capacity is taken almost an hour before the iftar.” Rana however confesses that until now, things have not heated up. “Bailey Road is also a commercial area.” He explain that the Eid shopping is yet to start and so things are still quiet. “But after the first 10 days, we often have a hard time accommodating all the guests. Sometimes there are customers who have their meals standing. We try our best to accommodate everyone who visits our place, but our capacity does not always permit that, he says.”
Every food stall, which has a seating place, is taken up and all food items are sold out well before Iftaar. Not everyone is happy though. This is especially true for the small shops that sell from the pavements. “This year we have not yet gotten enough customers. Last time there used to be a total rush to our place,” states Abul Hossain of Alaminer Chayer Dokan. Other small time retailers share his disappointment. However, with the shopping frenzy yet to begin, and the Eid market yet to heat up, there is still enough time before Bailey Road really gets heated up.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010