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Meaty option in black & white

THERE IS crisis in Kababland. The main ingredient in the food that comprises the staple diet of a million Lucknowites is missing, unless one chose to buy the meat, red or white, in black. No let-up in the ?flesh?-strike has left many sinking jaws into nothing other than their hard luck.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2006 00:16 IST

THERE IS crisis in Kababland.

The main ingredient in the food that comprises the staple diet of a million Lucknowites is missing, unless one chose to buy the meat, red or white, in black. No let-up in the ‘flesh’-strike has left many sinking jaws into nothing other than their hard luck.

What gives this shortage the dimensions of a calamity is the ongoing nikaah-rush with only a few days to go for Muharram, the holy Islamic months in which there are as few as no marriage or for that matter any other celebrations.

“A nikaah or walima daawat (feast) is unimaginable without korma and kabab. And the unimaginable is just what’s been happening in the wedding feasts held in the past few days,” laments Rizwan Ahmed who runs Mezbaan-e-Awadh catering. “There are just two options—to outsource meat from adjacent places at a premium, or to substitute the regular dishes with fish, or…fish! A proposition that is exorbitant and inept, considering not everyone enjoys fish, especially when it is served in place of mutton or chicken,” says Rizwan who has his reputation at stake with his latest commitment—to serve all the non-vegetarian dishes at the most celebrated wedding of the New Year, of film director Shaad Ali on the 28th of this month, a day before the meat-sellers have planned a dharna outside Vidhan Bhawan.

“A national holiday like the Republic Day sees major feasting and eating out,” says Arshi of Dastarkhwan. “Yesterday being Tuesday, most of the shops selling the biryani-kabab fare were closed and for today the meat supply was sourced from outside. But it is only by late night that the actual situation would be known. But since the show must go on, if local meatwallahs disappoint us, shop owners will buy the meat from other places,” he said.

But outsourcing is no easy proposition either.

“We have to buy chicken at Rs 120 a kg and mutton for a whopping Rs 150,” says Naved Shere, who runs the Dine India Restaurant. “Our deep-freeze stocks never last for over two days so we have but no option other than buying it from wherever we can at whatever rate we get,” says the restaurateur.

“The segment that buys frozen or cured meat is altogether different,” says Nikhil Ahuja of Good Bakerydepartment store that offers a variety of processed/cured meat and frozen cuts. “Our buyers are the same and there’s virtually no difference made to the amount of boneless chicken or any other item we are selling,” he adds.

But Sonu of Merlinz at Love Lane expresses solidarity with the butchers. “Closure of the 600-odd meat shops means depriving so many families of their two square meals. We sell ‘halal’ as well as ‘jhatka’ meat to our exclusive clientele and all meat comes from our own farm. But presently we are going with the meat sellers’ cause and refusing all customers till the matter is settled,” he says.

The scene in households is different with quite a few families procuring meat that is selling on the sly in the backlanes of Billouchpura, Moulviganj or Khurramnagar.

“It wouldn’t be long before it turns into a people’s movement and more sections join the strike brigade,” analyses Rizwan Ahmed.

First Published: Jan 26, 2006 00:16 IST