RAMZAN time in Karachi of the ‘60s, as I remember
By Menin Rodrigues
KARACHI: 24 April 2020 – We had not heard of RAMADAN. It was RAMZAN for
all. Everyone in the city knew what it meant in terms of its sanctity and observation.
Nobody was forced to do anything; it came naturally as ‘Faith’ does to all. Shops and
eateries were open, only a cursory curtain or cloth was tied to the main door, it flew in
the breeze all the time.
In the old neighborhoods of the city it was the drumroll of the man at the break of dawn
that woke us up, much before the Sehri siren; it was rise and shine for many of us
neighbors and friends too. The city was wide awake and after the morning rituals were
over, it was time to go to school/college and to workplaces. Just a normal day without
Nothing was different in school, the timings were the same, canteens were open, though
less of a rush. In our own circle of friends, those fasting continued to hang around in the
regular groups, some of us with Coke and patty in our hands. ‘Faith’ was within, nobody
displayed it on their foreheads.
On weekends when the school’s cricket team played matches, everyone in the team
paused for rest during lunch break without eating anything, just sat in the shade and discussed the outcome of the game. When on the field in scorching sun, we went without drinking water, just played, purely out of respect for our teammates, and on most match-days, I for one ‘fasted’ from breakfast to dinner, just for the heck of it.
Traffic in the city and office timings were also normal, maybe some extra time for
prayers on Fridays. There was no hurry, no crazy rush to get home in time for Iftar;
everyone reached home without hassle to open fast with the family.
It was dusk in Karachi and the aroma of piping hot pakoras and other succulent items,
fruits and juices was everywhere, on the streets, lanes, and residential neighborhoods.
The sudden quiet in the city was a beautiful experience, the hooter sounded and Iftar
was at hand; everyone broke the day-long fast. We were invited by our neighbors to join
them or Iftari was sent to our homes. The sun had disappeared, and the cool Westerly
breeze swept the city, as one saw people going towards the Mosques, in prayer and
Iftari and prayers done, we all joined friends in the neighborhood for several rounds of
‘SURPALA’ (I don’t know if I’ve got that right!) a wonderful team game! We played late
into the night, just under the streetlights, as there was no need for a kunda – we didn’t
know what it was and even if we did, would never ‘steal’ a connection from the nearby
RAMZAN is now RAMADAN but it means the same. Times have changed, the
population of Karachi has exploded, not much work goes on in offices, all eating places
are shut, traffic before Iftari is a nightmare, profiteering by hawkers is everywhere; and
much of the old-city charm has vanished. It’s a memory now.
RAMZAN Mubarak to all.