Thursday, October 12, 2006

Photo Essay: Ramadan Rozas in Lahore – Fasting-Feasting in Pakistan’s Food-Loving City

[Text and photographs by Mr. Usman Ahmed. A resident of Lahore, Mr. Ahmed is a software entrepreneur with a passion for photography. He can be reached in his blog Random Picture Blog From Pakistan.]

Gawalmandi, in an old district of Lahore, is the most celebrated culinary street of Pakistan. These pictures were taken minutes before Iftari, meal to break the Muslim fast - Roza - during the holy month of Ramadan.

Tables Ready for the Hungry Fasters



I reached Gawalmandi, popularly known as Food Street, around half an hour before the Iftari. The street was vacant and yet its silence was expectant with an imminent bustle. The evening air was highly agitated, bristling with the aroma of snacks which would be indulged throughout the evening.

In fact, this pleasure of eating was to be enjoyed all night long, lasting till the dawn when nothing, not even water, could be swallowed after Sehar.

Few More Minutes and the Feast is Yours



The last minute preparations were being orchestrated by the careful cooks to satiate the hunger of pious diners, who had bravely sacrificed their most basic instinct and had remained without food during the day. As to pay obeisance to the sacred seriousness of the occasion, the busy cooks frowned their brow and stiffened their lips while giving final touches to their Ramadan delicacies.

For Your Eyes Only



And what delicacies - samosas, kebabs, pakoris and mithais piled high like the great mountain peaks of Chitral and Gilgit! The enormous amount made me wonder what would become of all this food. Could it all be consumed? I silently wondered.

Leaving Nothing to Chance



I did not have to wait long to have my query satisfied. When only ten minutes were left to break the fast, fasting people started swarming into the street like a tsunami. It was as if it suddenly occurred to everyone that the mosques were about to signal the time for Iftari.

The Photographer Distracts the Artist



While clicking pictures – of people, their families, their establishments, and their houses – I usually do not encounter objections, hostilities, or reluctance. Often taken as a journalist for a newspaper or a television channel, my subjects, like this man above, are glad to be the center of focus of my lens. This is always a convenient cover for this photographer.

On Sale Now



However the Gawalmandi stall owners could not be content with me taking pictures of them and their food items alone. I constantly found myself being insisted upon to feast on Iftari, free at cost. It was a pleasant feeling and I felt welcomed but this gracious and sincere invitation was not astonishing or out-of-place. We Lahoris, after all, are renowned for being big-hearted and excellent hosts.

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