Covid-19: Hyderabadis to miss haleem this Ramzan due to ban on iftar parties

The breaking of the day’s fast or, roza, takes place after sundown and haleem would not available at that time because the Telangana government has enforced a strict lockdown restrictions between 6pm and 6am to curb the spread of coronavirus.
A woman walks past the Charminar during the lockdown amid Covid-19 pandemic, in Hyderabad.(ANI File)
A woman walks past the Charminar during the lockdown amid Covid-19 pandemic, in Hyderabad.(ANI File)
Updated on Apr 18, 2020 02:17 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Hyderabad | By Srinivasa Rao Apparasu

Hyderabadis will be missing their favourite dish haleem during the Holy month of Ramzan, starting next week, because of the ongoing nationwide lockdown till May 3 that has been enforced to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Haleem, originally an Arabic delicacy that was introduced in Hyderabad during the Asif Jahi dynasty’s rule during the 18th century, has been for long an inseparable part of the menu after offering iftar prayers during Ramzan.

The Hindus, too, took to the popular dish, as it spawned a thriving business for over 2,000 small and big restaurants, including several star hotels, and online food ordering and delivery platforms such as Swiggy and Zomato.

“Hyderabadi haleem has become a distinct identity of Dakhni culture. Haleem is exported to the Persian Gulf countries after it was granted the geographical indication tag in 2010, ” said Mohd Abdul Majeed, president, Hyderabad Haleem Makers’ Association.

Each plate of mutton haleem is priced between Rs 150 and Rs 200 depending on the outlet. The haleem business during Ramzan is estimated to be around Rs 800 crore every year.

Unfortunately, haleem will not tickle Hyderabadi gourmet’s palate this Ramzan.

The breaking of the day’s fast or, roza, takes place after sundown and haleem would not available at that time because the Telangana government has enforced a strict lockdown restrictions between 6pm and 6am. “There is no possibility of haleem being served, as iftar parties have been banned this Ramzan,” Majeed said.

All restaurants and hotels are closed, including the outlets making haleem, because of the ongoing lockdown.

“It requires elaborate preparations for making haleem. We have to set up bhattis (ovens) made of mud to cook the mutton, along with ghee, wheat, and spices on a low flame for several hours. We start the preparations as early as 4 am and complete cooking by afternoon, followed by arrangements for distribution. Alas! Nothing can be done this year because of the lockdown,” said Majeed, whose Pista House near Charminar is one of the most sought-after restaurants that serve haleem in the city.

Mutton, the key ingredient for haleem, is scarce due to the lockdown even though spices and other cooking materials are still readily available.

“We used to get quality meat from Chengicherla slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Hyderabad. But that’s closed because of the lockdown. Even if we manage to get the meat from local suppliers, there’s no demand, as the supply mechanism is disrupted,” he said.

Besides, chefs and their assistants have mostly taken off for their respective native places after the restaurants downed their shutters while complying with the government’s lockdown restrictions.

“Initially, our association thought of engaging Swiggy and Zomato for home deliveries, but that too is not feasible because of the restriction in movements after 6 pm,” he added.

The haleem makers are waiting for the outcome of the Telangana cabinet meeting slated to be held on Sunday on the easing of lockdown curbs in some select sectors on the lines proposed by the Centre from April 20 onwards.

“We are planning to meet Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to allow home delivery after 6 pm,” Majeed said.

However, the haleem makers are apprehensive that even after May 3 -- when the lockdown is likely to be lifted -- there might be restrictions on hotels and restaurants to avoid mass gatherings, as the government would still strictly enforce social distancing norms.

“If the government allows takeaway facilities to function, it may not be a feasible idea to do business, as large crowds would gather near haleem outlets. It doesn’t augur well for us,” he added.

Besides the unavailability of haleem, this Ramzan promises to set a different benchmark for the spiritually inclined.

Ulemas and Muftis from all schools of Islamic thought have appealed to the members of their community to offer Taraweeh prayers, a special form of Islamic meditation, that involves reading long portions of the Holy Quran, at their respective homes. Taraweeh -- derived from the Arabic word meaning “to rest and relax” – prayers are conducted after Isha, every evening’s last daily prayer.

“All Muslims have been urged to partake iftar at home, as sehri, or pre-dawn meal during Ramzan, is done indoors. They have also been requested not to host or attend iftar parties. While staying at home, they shall observe fasting and refrain from holding ijtemas (gatherings) for Taraweeh and recitation of the Holy Quran,” said Mufti Anwar Ahmed of Jamia Nizamia, Hyderabad.

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