Eidul Azha economy thrives amidst pandemic precautions

Published July 21, 2021
Vendors display paraphernalia needed for the sacrifice in the Lea Market area on Tuesday.
—White Star
Vendors display paraphernalia needed for the sacrifice in the Lea Market area on Tuesday. —White Star

KARACHI: Eidul Azha, commonly known as Bakra Eid, is a great religious festival observed by Muslims all over the world as it also marks the month in which millions of Muslims converge on Makkah to perform Haj.

Unfortunately, for the last two years, the pandemic has hit this festival like everything else in the world. However, it is still observed as passionately in countries like Pakistan.

As soon as the festival nears, temporary markets to sell sacrificial animals pop up across Karachi and the rest of the country. Apart from this, other markets are also established to support the animal market which provides fodder for the animals as well as accessories for the animals.

Eidul Azha has helped other sections of the struggling market like transporters who shuttle animals from the market to homes; electronics especially deep-freezers; various forms of knives and cutting boards; spices and other things to help cook on the big day; BBQ equipment — skewers and grills — and fuel like coal.

Cooks and catering services also get business as people organise parties and gatherings. But some people still highlight some issues that have arisen or can arise post-Eid.

Concerns about cleanliness Some have the usual concerns about the mess.

“We are used to the filth in the aftermath of this Eid,” said Samia Ahsan, a 70-year-old homemaker. “Every year we say the same thing that roads are getting dirtier although the truth is that it’s always as dirty. And every year the number of animals is increasing.”

Despite a surge in Covid-19 cases people are ready to celebrate the festival with traditional enthusiasm

Some compare the situation in Karachi to other Muslim countries.

Sajid Hussain, who used to live abroad, said, “We have never seen such things in the UAE or Saudi Arabia — where I lived for several years. Everyone sacrificed animals on Eid but you never saw animals all over the place. Even the sacrifice was done in special areas, where all the filth and blood remained. You never saw it everywhere.”

He added, “We talk a lot about the Muslim world and Islam, but we seldom look at the good things that are happening in our Muslim countries. Pakistan is probably unique in everything, even this Eid.”

However, there is some good news from temporary shopkeepers.

Nadeem Iqbal sets up seasonal stalls according to the festival. “I set up a stall this year with food for the sacrificial animals, accessories, and other things. The food goes faster than the other items as this is needed daily. I don’t make a lot on that as the margin is low — can’t add too much to it. However, the accessories for the animals are a novelty. The prices were between a few hundred for separate things but if you wanted the headset, back, and the other ornaments the whole set could begin from Rs3,000-Rs7,000 — depending on the animals you had.

“It is a living. Now my stall will convert to selling Independence Day items,” laughed Nadeem. “It is an honest living. I sell according to the festival and events. The prices of things keep going out of our reach and so I set up these stalls, although this is not my profession. I have a job too, a white-collar job, as my father used to say for sharif people. But you tell me a sharif person cannot support a family on the income from the job alone. And we are not cut out for other things, we want to earn honestly so I opted for this.” Doing business amid Covid-19 risk Businessmen have concerns too.

Hamza owns a shop in Tariq Road and although he is aware of the coronavirus issue he says he has to support a family. “I know coronavirus is a dangerous thing. I have lost some family members and people I know, but I have to feed a family and I need the business.”

And then there are the philosophers. Ali a customer who was shopping at the shop said, “You know the virus is going to spread faster — look at these big crowds at animal markets and around the city. Just imagine how fast the virus will spread.”

He thinks even the government can’t do anything if the people don’t want to do anything. “God is great and we are safe because of His blessings, although we have tried our best to spread the virus.”

Jamila Sadiq lives in an apartment in a semi-posh area of Karachi. She said, “People gather to just look at other people’s sacrificial animals. It is sad and funny at the same time. Small crowds including women and children stand for hours to look at the animals. I guess we don’t have many entertainment options.”

She added, “When I came home from a tough day all I want to do is sleep. But the constant noise from the crowds is quite difficult. Once at three, I was woken by shouts and screams as if a lot of people were gathered. I looked out of the balcony to see that the shouts were from a group that had just witnessed the delivery of an animal. Why?”

On the other hand, some struggle so their loved ones can enjoy Eid.

Yasmeen Aleem, 25, works as a nurse at a local hospital in Saddar and at a private clinic and her family invested in a share in a sacrificial animal which cost them around Rs15,000. “This is a festival for which we all try to save money so we can invest in an animal. My family shares an animal with my uncles. All of us pay our share — if I wasn’t working two jobs I don’t think I would be able to pay.”

“With news of cases increasing in Karachi and probably across Pakistan, I don’t understand why people don’t take precaution. With the Indian variant [here], what’s it called Alpha, no Delta, we should be careful,” comments Imran Shahid, a fruit vendor who is from southern Punjab.

“I want to go back to my family on Eid, but have heard there are too many hassles. But I can’t spend Eid alone. The virus has given space to transporters to extort money from people like us ... we are only using this form of transport because we can’t afford to travel by better means like planes. My friend said I will have to get a certificate from Nadra to travel — why, I am only going home.”

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2021

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