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What's one word that comes to your mind when you hear Ramadan? I am sure you would say a day-long fast for a month. But what do people eat in their Sehri, the pre-dawn meal, to keep their fast? We went to New Delhi's Zakir Nagar, in Okhla, near Jamia Millia Islamia to see that.
Fiery kebabs, mouth-watering rabri falooda, vibrant streets swarming with people - a feast for the senses post-midnight at Zakir Nagar. There are hundreds of food items, to choose from. I didn't know where to start from, so, I decided take the help of my friend, Kamran Ali, who's a resident of Zakir Nagar.
On Sunday morning (16 April), around 1 am, I reached Zakir Nagar, and I couldn't believe my eyes. Hundreds of people were seen on the street and the streets were beautifully decorated.
I was mesmerised by the beauty and the vibe of the market, and I couldn't resist the delicious food being served. Shahi Kheer Point was our first stop, which took Kamran down memory lane.
"It is one of the oldest sweet shops of Zakir Nagar. When I was a kid, my brother used to bring me here, especially for Sehri, and we used to have halwa and kheer. Their kheer is very famous. And now, they are serving a halwa made of dates and fig. It's delicious. One bowl of it is enough to fill your stomach."Kamran Ali, Resident
The delicious Kheer seemed to have awakened my taste bud, making it difficult to control my craving. From there, we tried finger-licking chicken Shawarmas at Chilli Bite and rolls at Quick Eats. The lassi from Pahalwan Ji wasn't the one I would miss.
While enjoying the tasty food, I also met a few people on the street. "I have come from Jaipur just for the ambience," told a person to me. As crazy as it might sound, I feel the vibe of the place is infectious enough to attract anyone from anywhere.
Since Jamia Millia Islamia is close to Zakir Nagar, I could see college students enjoying their Sehri. Rahil, a student, told me, "People come for the taste and the ambience here, especially in the month of Ramadan is incredible here."
I also met a fellow Lucknowite, who compared Zakri Nagar with Lucknow.
"I am from Lucknow. I have witnessed the vibe of Ramadan in Lucknow, and this is the first time I have come here. The variety of food and its taste is something you won't get anywhere. Not even in Lucknow."Humza, Student
Lucknow will always be close to my heart, but Zakir Nagar, during Sehri, seems to have overtaken my hometown.
Several people celebrated Ramadan for the first time post-Covid, so this Sehri is all the more special to them.
"For the last couple of years, during Sehri, we could not go out to the market. Now, we have the freedom to go out. We feel good that there isn't any lockdown, and we can go anywhere and enjoy our Sehri," said Tuba Jalal, a Nizamuddin resident who had come to enjoy the food as restaurants in her locality were shut at this time.
As a woman, I was happy to see many young girls freely walking on the streets without fear.
"The midnight value and the decoration give a different touch to this place. You will feel safe. We know that Delhi is not safe (for women), but you will feel safe here," said Trina, who had come with her friend, Manya, from Delhi's Lajpat Nagar.
Food joint owners were pleased with the footfall. "We have good footfall during Ramadan. It's our first Ramadan since we recently opened, but the footfall is nice. We have a good sale. We are able to sell around 300-400 rolls daily," said Syed Farooq, owner of Chilli Bite.
Though I wanted to eat more from some famous restaurants like Lucknowi Galawati and Qureshi Kebabs, by the time I reached, sadly, my stomach was already full. But I'm happy that I got to visit many places. It was so lovely to see how Sehri was so meaningful to these people in every manner.
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)