By Naimat Haider

The onset of Ramazan brings with it a series of unusual changes in peopleís lives. Their patterns of sleeping, working and eating undergo a radical change as a mood of piety descends over the city. All of a sudden, you can see pakora walas, khajoor walas and dahi stalls appearing from nowhere in all parts of the city. The holy month carries blessings for everyone but living in a society like ours, people belonging to different classes have different things to think about and prepare for during Ramazan.

While the rich espouse the benefits of simplicity and piety during the month, the poor and the middle class struggle against the rising tide of inflation and the raised expectations of Eid. Others simply believe in exploiting the generosity of the people of Karachi during the holy month. Kolachi takes a closer look at the lives, struggles, hopes and dreams of five people in the city during the month of RamazanÖ

Attia Bano, family of Naurattan Jewellers

Attia Banoís family, which has 10 members, is a high-income household. She told Kolachi that the expenses of her house rapidly increase in the month. "If I spend 100 rupees on any other day, Iíll have to spend 150 a day in Ramazan," she said, not revealing exactly how much she spends in the holy month. However, for Bano money is not a matter of concern at all. "Itís a system of God," she says. "He has the authority over food, over drink, over everything."

Bano does not do any special preparations for the month, for she believes in simplicity. She does not face problems in the early days of the holy month in adjusting her routine either. "Come Ramazan, and here I am ready to fast and feeling as energetic as ever," she says.

Bano believes that Ramazan has been designed in such a way by the Almighty that it never causes trouble for the poor. "After all, it is this month in which Zakat is distributed among them (the poor)," she says. "Itís all in His hands. We can do nothing about it except being thankful. He knows very well how to feed the poor."

However, she does at times assist Him by distributing clothes and food among her employees and beggars, who knock at her door in Ramazan. "I send Iftari to the local mosque as well," she says.

Unlike many affluent people in the city, Bano does not feel comfortable throwing Iftar parties in Ramazan. This is not due to the expense involved but because such parties, she says, snatch the barkat of oneís bread and thus adversely affect oneís spirituality. "This is a month of fasting and, in a way, sacrificing oneís food for the sake of Allah. This allows oneís will to get strengthened and God accepts our sacrifice," she says. "And doing this doesnít require a party, I think".

Bano feels sad in the last days of the holy month. "Though I enjoy Eid, I feel closer to the Almighty during the days of Ramazan," she says. "I wish this month had more than 30 days," she adds, as she laughs.

Razzaq Dashti, a student

Unlike most of the residents of Karachi, Razzaq Dashti, a 24-year-old student from Balochistan who lives in Gulshan-e-Iqbal with four of his friends, spends much less in Ramazan than in any other month. He and his friends spend 25,000 rupees in the other months and spend an amazingly low sum of 15,000 in the month of fasting.

The reasons are that he quits smoking, breaks his fast with his friends at free Iftari stalls on the roads and does not have to worry about Sehri as they are too lazy to wake up at the time to eat.

"Ramazan is surely a blessed month," Dashti said. "As dinner is the only thing we pay for this month, this saves us a lot of money." He told Kolachi that he faces financial hardships throughout the year but the coming of the holy month brings with it the blessings of God, especially if one happens to be in this metropolis. "The people of Karachi are generous and one gets to see this generosity in Ramazan," he says. "There is no better place than Karachi in the month of fasting."

Dashtiís luxuries during Ramazan do not end here. He also occasionally receives food from his neighbours. "Two kind women from next door send us sweets and cholay after Iftar. I will always remain grateful to them as I like sweets a lot," he says.

However, Dashti, a student of political science, misses those several cups of tea that he would order for himself and his friends at a tea cafť in his neighbourhood while he would go on talking about Voltaire and Rousseau. "Itís true that I miss those gatherings but am happy since it saves me lots of money." he said.

Apart from buying books, Dashti purchases gifts for his nephews and nieces with the spare money and pays for his travel expenses when he leaves for his home town a few days before Eid. "Unlike this Eid, I usually miss spending Bakr Eid with my family as I canít afford to go on that occasion," he says. "I truly wish that there were some more Ramazans in the year."

Amar Gul, lecturer in a government college

Amar Gul, a teacher at a government college, says he finds it hard to manage financially during Ramazan. He earns 20,000 rupees a month and this sum has not been enough during previous holy months.

"Though I live in a joint family setting, I face difficulties as the prices of commodities rise this month," he said. "And the month is followed by Eid, for which my kids need new clothes."

Gulís expenses increase by 50 per cent in Ramazan. However, he is happy that he does not spend much on his person during the holy month. "I donít have to eat gutka," he says. "I donít go out so often and this helps me in managing the money for the family."

However, he expects trouble this month as he fears that prices of commodities will further rise due to the floods in the country. "There will certainly be a shortage of commodities," he predicts. "The devastating floods have destroyed crops and orchards across the country and this will result in a shortage of vegetable and fruits."

This does not mean that Gul will not enjoy the holy month. According to him, there is a joy in spending money on things his family eats at Iftari and Sehri. He rejoices when he sees the light in his childrenís eyes while they sit in front of the food he buys for them at the time of Iftari while they wait for the Azan. "The joy is worth the money," the teacher says.

Meanwhile, Gul regrets that he is not a teacher of economics who could give his family more in the month of fasting. He urges his children as well as students to fast and spend as little money as possible. "The less one spends in Ramazan the more they have in hand to prepare for and enjoy at Eid," he says. He loves Eids and the festivities they bring with them. Moreover, he becomes the happiest person in the world during the last days of Ramazan when he has successfully managed his finances for the month and is ready for Eid. "Most people wish that Eid comes as soon as possible but no one accepts it," he laughs.

Mrs Parveen, wife of Sikandar Sultan, Managing Director/Founder Shan Foods

"Expenses surely increase during Ramazan," says Parveen, a housewife and wife of a prominent businessman. "But that is not something to be worried about as everyone manages to spend the moth happily due to Allahís blessings." Parveen belongs to a high-income family and thinks that Allah puts additional blessings in everything in Ramazan.

She told Kolachi that though one should remember God in all the days in oneís life, remembering Him in Ramazan is a must as the month holds a special meaning in the Islamic calendar. "Spending time in praying during Ramazan is a platform for washing oneís sins away," she says.

This belief is one reason for not throwing Iftar parties or attending them. She thinks that some people have made it a trend to arrange Iftar gatherings in Ramazan. "Not that I am against parties or such gatherings but I believe that these should not be used as platforms for socializing with others but for earning Sawab," Parveen says. Besides, she believes that going to attend or arranging a party wastes oneís time. That time, she believes, should be spent praising the Almighty for His blessings.

Parveen has a large family and spends the month happily as they do not face financial hardships. "Allah ka dya sab kuch hai," she says. However, she does not believe that one should spend the month in luxury just because of being rich. "Fasting and arranging a good Iftari is a duty, not a luxury. I always tell the children of the family to live with simplicity in Ramazan."

Parveen keeps fast throughout the month and feels very sad in the last days of the holy month. "When Ramazan is over, I worry about whether I will be alive to see the next one or not," she says. However, after fasting for 30 days, she then rejoices, believing that Eid is an equally holy occasion, and prays that her family be blessed on the day. "Eid is no less a blessed occasion than Ramazan," she says. "The occasion is a reward for the 30 days of labour and we should come forward and claim that reward," she adds with a smile.

Rafiullah, rickshaw driver

Rickshaw driver Rafiuallah Khan, 41, who lives in Sultanabad, spends the rest of the year happily with the meager amount he earns in a day. However, he has to work harder in Ramazan as the gap between what he earns and spends widens.

"Survival becomes tough as the prices of everything increase," he told Kolachi. "Inflation is just unbearable." He puts all the blame on shopkeepers, who, according to him, deliberately raise the prices of commodities knowing that the public has no other option but to purchase them at whatever rates the shopkeeper r demands.

"Ham ghareeb log chadar dekh kar paon phelate hain. Magar is mehengahi mein paon hamesha chadar se bahar hi rehta hai," he said. Apart from the skyrocketing prices of commodities, Khan says that his business also slackens in Ramazan. He says that during the month of fasting he earns less than the 350 to 400 rupees he earns in a day in the rest of the year despite the fact that he spends more time on the roads than at home.

Khan says he stands on the roads waiting for passengers but he meets only few people who show interest in traveling on his rickshaw. This may not earn him more money but it ironically serves a purpose for him as, according to him, the time passes much faster on the roads of Karachi than at home. "Fives minutes of waiting (for Iftari) at home seem like five hours," he says.

After Iftar, Khan kick-starts his rickshaw and once more leaves for the roads of Karachi with the hope that he will buy new clothes for his three children with the money he will earn working overtime. "Preparation for Eid is on my mind from the first day of Ramazan," Khan says. "Eid gives me additional joy when I see my kids in new clothes. The clothes which have been bought from the money I have earned by roaming the roads of Karachi day and night."

óThe News photos by Naqeeb ur Rehman

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