KARACHI: The two-day Karachi Dharna Family Food Festival organised by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) on its 23rd day of protest and sit-in transformed the road outside the Sindh Assembly building into a well-lit, open and airy food court on Saturday.
Besides becoming the go-to place for people from all walks of life to voice their grievances, the area has also been turned into a place to enjoy different cuisines from 5pm till 1am over the weekend.
It provides a fine business opportunity for entrepreneurs, most of who operate from their home kitchens and sell online.
Syeda Ayesha Ansari, who runs her online food business by the name of ‘Marvelous Foods’, was happily arranging little boxes of carrot halwa on a table along with kheer, which she had prepared herself. No one could have guessed from her bright face and a pleasant smile that she had remained awake the entire night to prepare the sweet offerings. And the afternoon she had spent frying her chicken rolls and tiny one-bite potato samosas.
“I did get a brief shut-eye around 4am,” she said. “It’s okay, really. I know I won’t get much sleep tomorrow as well but I’m looking forward to rest day after tomorrow,” she added.
People enjoy different cuisines from 5pm till 1am during weekend
Saima Anwar at the stall next to Ms Ansari was selling Kathiawari chholay. “It’s not that difficult to prepare a pot full but today the low gas pressure tested my patience while causing some delay in the cooking process,” she said. The lady was selling a plate of the delicacy for Rs90.
Rehana Rashid had big loaves of bread on the table before her. She also had an electric kettle there. “You have come to the right stall if you crave hot coffee and sandwiches,” she said.
Two young boys, brothers, Usman and Akbar, were minding the chicken corn soup and biryani stall in the absence of their ‘Mama’ Kausar.
“Soup with papri [crispy biscuit] is for Rs60 and if you want it with boiled egg, it is for Rs80 a bowl. Abiryani plate is for Rs120. It is chicken tikka biryani,” the older of the brothers informed categorically.
There were also professional chefs at work at a bigger College of Tourism and Hotel Management (COTHM) stall where according to Ammar Jalil, the institute’s admin officer minding the counter, you could order pizza and hors d’oeuvre and canapé with different kinds of sauces.
Meanwhile, Roshna and her brother Sabeeh were sharing a stall. She was selling homemade ubtan, hair oil and jars of a weight-loss product and her brother was selling fattening doughnuts, halwa and samosa.
“You buy fattening food from me and then you can go buy my sister’s weight-loss product,” the brother joked.
There was also fish marinating and ready to be fried or grilled at a stall along with several stalls offering bun kebab, barbecue delights and haleem.
The stalls were all neatly lined up on one side of the road and the tables, chairs and takht with cushions were placed on the other side across the stalls. There were also two big jumping castles for keeping the kiddies happy and occupied.
Naveed Ali Baig of the JI, who is in charge of the food court for the two days, told Dawn that there are about 50 stalls in all at the sit-in and most of the vendors happen to be running small food businesses from their homes.
“We have charged them nothing for booking a stall with us but we have, however, have requested them to keep their prices reasonable,” he said.
“We only wanted them to create a nice and clean environment here for families to come and enjoy their evenings. And we wanted the stall vendors to also be able to earn some money,” he said.
The food festival ends on Sunday.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022