LAHORE: The city streets wore a literal deserted look as people observed first of Ramazan on Sunday, preferring to remain indoors despite the repeated power suspensions that disallowed them the ideally cool refuge against the heat outdoors.

Canal was undoubtedly the only place in the city thronged by those badly hit by weather and power suspensions. They included Lahorites of all hue -- women, children and the old -- beating the heat in an otherwise dirty canal’s ice cold water.

The rest of the city looked haunted. It appeared as if the hot wind was ruling it taking full advantage of the absence of its inhabitants.

All eateries and stores were closed as were the wholesale and retail markets of all kind. The business at the petrol pumps was bearish and served as a parameter for estimating how many people were on the roads during the day time.

“Are you going office,” asked the worker of a petrol pump in Garhi Shahu. And when asked why he was curious, he said the clientele was abysmally low. “Roza (fasting) and garmi (hot weather) has pushed back people to their homes. We have earned only Rs100,000 as against Rs one million on Sundays,” he said at 4pm.

Streets remained busy in Lahore till Sehari. Afterwards, most of the people, fasting or not, went to sleep which was disturbed in many localities by repeated and extended power suspensions. Those affording solar energy or power generators were an exception.

For the majority, the fire spiting sun and the hot wind were a bogey, and they did not dare leave their abodes which too were not ideal refuge against the harsh weather. There was also less rush in mosques for the mid-day prayer (Zuhr).

Normalcy started returning in the late afternoon when the disc of the sun started gradually losing its strength. The bathers at the canal from nooks of the city too began to return to their abodes, creating traffic mess on different portions of the road on both sides of the canal.

The major indication that life was returning to normal was the rush at the shops selling traditional Iftaar items like samosas, pakoras, sherbet, fruit etc. Mosques where philanthropists had arranged for Iftaar too drew rush.

It was also a day of collecting donations and Ramazan charity by hordes of beggars which have recently invaded the city. Many of these donation collectors could well be fake, trying to use first of Ramazan to make a quick buck. They were present everywhere, in mosques, at samosa shops and outside grocery stores.

A bearded man offered Maghrib prayer at a Gulberg mosque and started seeking ration for Ramazan immediately after the prayer. A few days ago he was seen begging money for the four-month rent of his house. “I am not a beggar. But I need money to keep the shelter for my family,” he was saying. A dust storm, nevertheless, lashed the city at around 9.30pm, sweeping away the accumulated heat. The Met department also expected light rain during the night though.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2017