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Sehri eateries: Have stomach, enough to eat

August 14, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Aug 14: While travelling from Islamabad or coming from Saddar towards  the city centre, one is bound to note the isolation on the streets and love for sleeping early among dwellers of the twin cities.

The only sound that breaks the usual silence at around 1am at Faizabad is the movement of youngsters on motorcycles wheeling, show riding and even copying snake-walk on their speedy bikes.

One can see tired workers and families returning from shopping and work at Marir and Liaquat Bagh, but the scenario starts to change around Waris Khan and for those taking up Saidpur road, crossing Asghar Mal intersection.

The unique culture of old city comprises regular night cricket matches on main roads, regular loitering by residents and rush at eateries.

As one proceeds further from Asghar Mal towards Banni roundabout, traffic starts to choke and at the old ‘horse cart’ stand moving further becomes a test of driving skills. This is due to the fact that admirers of Sheikh tikka house and Shehanshah tikka house have grown so much that vehicles can be seen parked on both sides of the road.

Those who manage to proceed forward towards Kartarpura have to struggle for space against traffic coming from Banni side, but ultimately each of the hundred, possibly thousands reach Kartarpura food street.

The rush was extraordinarily high after midnight as large number of boys and men were already out on the streets celebrating the birth of the nation.

However, those who have never been to Kartarpura during the night in Ramazan, the sight is not only amazing due to massive rush but availability of food varieties is just mouth watering.

“I would not be eating Paya and Nihari in this hot atmosphere, but here I too can’t resist the aroma of these great dishes,” said Muhammad Azhar, resident of Pindora, who kept pondering over every stall and shop remaining indecisive over what to eat.

While, to quench down the heat generated in the body, after eating such spicy and heavy food, there is always space for cold drinks. One can find decorated stalls of lassi at the food street.

However, contrary to previous year, lassi sellers have started selling lassi in disposable glasses.

Though, other major hangouts for Sehri in Rawalpindi are Commercial Market, Double road, BB Shaheed hospital and some spots at Jamia Masjid road,  Kartarpura locality has developed into a night food bazaar during Ramazan.

Among the most prominent food delicacies in the street is Kala Nihari. This outlet was established by a cook belonging to Ambala before independence. Currently his grandson Abdul Lateef, claims that he has maintained the same taste for decades as their family secret.

The unique status of Kartarpura is that it has developed into a recognised Sehri food bazaar and many who are in the food business find this as a refuge to keep the wheels of economy running.

An experienced master chef has a stall set up on a pushcart, where he sells goat feet (paya) worth around Rs10,000 daily and same amount of cattle feet (bara paya). “After Ramazan I will go back to my stall near Sarafa bazaar,” he said.

Fans of these delicacies have grown over the years and so have the number of food sellers. Many have come from other cities to sell their specialties.

“I came from Lahore to establish a stall here first time last year – selling nihari, then we decided to stay here and this is my rented shop,” said Qayyum.

However, the growing commercialisation and massive rush has also added to cultural change of the area and the locals feel alienated in their own locality.

“There are so many people here that we cannot send children to buy things for Sehri,” said Muhammd Qasim, a local resident.

“Besides we all used to go to have Sehri with our families but due to the presence of boys and men from all over the city, it is not suitable for women to move out.”

He said that the authorities needed to exert some order at Kartarpura street by implementing traffic and improving eating space.