How Lucknow’s Famous Biryani Shop Is Feeding Veg to Migrants Daily
For the first time, Wahid Biryani has shed its 65-year old tradition and turned to an all veg platter.
“Adab ke Sheher se koi bhooka nahi jaayega (No one will leave Lucknow — the city of etiquettes — hungry)
This is the goal, Wahid Biryani, famous for their Awadhi cuisine in the capital of Uttar Pradesh, have in mind. For the first time in their 65-year old history, they have turned vegetarian for a noble cause — to feed thousands of migrants passing through Lucknow on their way home amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The popular eatery has been feeding over 1,500 migrants every day for the past ten days. The platter includes all things vegetarian, from Navratan biryani, to veg kebabs, bun makkhan, biscuits, sharbat, and milk.
“Those who have small children, who cannot eat, milk is for them especially. We talk to the mothers to take it along with them, because it may be long before they get it again on their journey back home,” Naushad Ali Quraishi of Wahid Biryani told The Quint.
They have set up stalls at four different locations on the city’s outskirts, at Agra Expressway, where Naushad works with his elder brother and the owner of the outlet, Abid Ali Quraishi.
The other areas are Sitapur Road, Shaheed Path and Polytechnic Chowk.
‘No Migrant Will Leave Lucknow Hungry’
Given that Ramzaan is on, the two brothers, along with around 50 members of their staff, have been fasting while working all day to serve the food so no migrant leaves hungry. However, they feel their fast is nothing in comparison to the troubles of the migrants, who don’t know when their next meal will be.
The team begins work around 11 am in the morning and reaches their locations in the afternoon, and only gets done at 11 pm to midnight. They take a break for sehri at night, and then the cycle continues.
Abid said, “The migrants tell us that they have been coming from over 1,000 kms, and no one has treated them with respect, but they have come here and eaten, and that made them feel like they belong to this country.”
“Some of them barely have any clothes on, have no food and are exhausted, when they finally have a meal, they have raised their hands to the sky in gratitude and have thanked us,” said Naushad.
Naushad also said while their actions might seem noble, and that the workers are thanking them, in reality, the suffering of the migrants has pierced their hearts.
Wahid Biryani was established in 1955 by Abid’s grandfather Aladdin. Becoming a family business, Abid’s father expanded it, and now Abid and his brothers have taken over the reins of the business.
‘Hindus, Muslims... Eating Together at Iftar’
The owner of the outlet, Abid, stated that during iftar, which takes place in the evening around 7 pm, all the team members break their fast together, and offer prayers at makeshift camps at the location.
“If there are Muslims among the migrants, all of us break our fast together, but fast or no fast, we distribute the food to the others from different communities so they can all eat together,” Abid added.
The owner continued, “People who pass by, tell us that even people in their homes do not do such mehman nawazi (serving guests) like the way we are serving people and that warms our hearts.”
Why Would We Eat From You, Asked Pandit
Clearing more misconceptions, Abid said that once at Sitapur road, one pandit told them that because they eat and serve non-veg people won’t eat from them. “My driver who is also a Hindu told them that the food is pure vegetarian, and once the pandit was convinced he told us he will eat the biryani in the temple, because it's nothing less than 'prasad.'”
Some migrants have also mistaken them of being from the government, “When they get off the bus at the highway, some of them mistake us to be from the state government,they say, ‘Kejriwal hasn't done much for us, but Adityanath's government is,’ so we clarify that we are working independently.”
Feast on Eid
The brothers had initially planned to do this till Eid, which is likely to be on 24 or 25 May. “We have planned to cook 30-40 kilos of sewaiyan, 2-3 deg Biryani on Eid for all the mirgant labourers,” said Abid.
Stating that they are “overwhelmed” with the response and gratitude, the brothers have planned to continue their work post-Eid since the lockdown has extended.
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