Coronavirus outbreak: Separated from children, meagre iftar and sehri; how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

The holy month of Ramzan has been marred at this quarantine facility due to a lack of food during sehri and iftar, separation from children and not enough milk for kids.

Ismat Ara April 27, 2020 09:52:51 IST
Coronavirus outbreak: Separated from children, meagre iftar and sehri; how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

At 3 am in the morning, people stand in a line at a quarantine facility near Nizamuddin. Upon being asked why, they say it is time for "sehri", the meal eaten before the Fajr prayer ahead of a 16-or-so-hour fast during the month of Ramzan. The facility, set up in Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Sriniwaspuri, has around 60 inhabitants, most of whom fast during the holy month.

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Tarique Afaque, a Delhi local who arranges for sehri for the people in this quarantine centre, says, "We discovered that there are around 30 to 40 people at Sriniwaspuri Quarantine Centre who want to observe Ramzan and fast." He adds that even though people in the quarantine centre wanted to fast, they were hesitant because there was no official arrangement for sehri. "That's when we reached out to people, who started helping with food for sehri and other essentials."

Coronavirus outbreak Separated from children meagre iftar and sehri how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

A child collects her sehri at the quarantine centre. Firstpost/Ismat Ara

However, the meal that is being served to them is not the typical food eaten during sehri. Parween, another resident of Nizamuddin, recalls, "At home, we used to have fruits, fritters, milk and other snacks for sehri. What do we have here? Two dry rotis and some curry. And for iftar, we get nothing. We have to either save the lunch that we get or wait till dinner to break our fast." Although Afaque has arranged sehri for people quarantined in this centre, he laments, "I’ve never had sehri with just one dish and rotis. I can't imagine what it must be like for [the people who have to eat this]."

Parween, a resident of Nizamuddin who has been quarantined at this centre for the past 20 days, says, "We don't get to break our fast to the sound of the azaan here. We don't have fruit. For sehri, we have a meal of soybean curry and roti. At home, we would have pakoras, chana and all kinds of fruits For iftar, we get nothing."

Meanwhile, Yogesh Puri, Delhi civil defence officer-in-charge points out, "While it is true that there is no special arrangements to cater to the needs of those who are fasting, three meals are served as per the rules."

Shabana Parween, another Nizamuddin resident, was brought to this facility on 13 April. Holding a three-year-old girl in her arms, she recalls, "I was distributing food to the needy on the roads of Nizamuddin when the police picked me up and brought me here."

Ramzan festivities have been marred, she says, but that is not the main problem.

Coronavirus outbreak Separated from children meagre iftar and sehri how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

People at the quarantine centre queue up for sehri. Firstpost/Ismat Ara

"We are adults. We will still somehow manage to fast in adverse conditions. But our kids are not getting any nutritious food, not enough milk. Milk comes in the evening and there's very little of it and it comes only once a day. For iftar, we somehow manage because our acquaintances send us some food. But the main problem is sehri, because at that time getting food here is difficult, and there are no arrangements for that by the facility's staff. But some kind people are helping us out by sending us food for sehri: Curry, bread and some tea." she explains.

Masoor, Parween's husband who is quarantined with her in the same facility, says, "The police told us to cooperate, that we would be tested, and if found negative we would be allowed to go in two or three days. But it has been over 15 days since we came here, and we have not yet been tested. We have small children here, who aren't getting milk and cry all day. We can still manage, but what about the kids?" Among about 60 inhabitants in this facility, there are around 15 children. "Breaking the fast with dates is sunnah (a habitual practice) for us. But we aren't getting them here. There is nothing organised for people who are observing fasts."

Parween notes, "I have two daughters. One is three years old and the other is eight years old. Since we have been quarantined here, my eight-year-old daughter is all alone at a neighbour's house during a time of festivity. Humari galti thi, hum baahar ghoom rahe the... chalo theek hai. Magar meri aath saal ki beti ka kya? (It was our fault that we were roaming around outside [and got quarantined], but what of our eight-year-old?)"

Coronavirus outbreak Separated from children meagre iftar and sehri how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

A woman holds her child at the quarantine centre. Firstpost/Ismat Ara

Saira, an elderly woman in the quarantine centre without her husband or son, says, "My son is differently-abled. I am worried about him. I want to go back to my husband in Meerut. I will die here. Have they brought me here to die? I had just come to Nizamuddin to ask God to keep everybody happy, and I have ended up here now." She laments not being able to see her newly-born grandson, who was born just three days ago.

Holding a plate of potato and soybean curry in his hands — the meal brought by Afaque for sehri at this facility, Uttam Manik says, "Even though I am Hindu, I fast in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters. At home when I used to fast, I would wake up at 2 am and prepare some food for myself. I want to eat decent food at least during Ramzan, bur I don't know how we will get that here."

Manik had a small kiosk set-up at India Gate. "Since the lockdown, we have suffered huge losses. I don't have any money and if I did, I would have asked somebody to buy me some pakoras for iftar," he sighs, adding, "Anyway, we will manage, but some milk should be arranged for little kids in this facility every morning."

Seelampur-resident Saima is quarantined at this facility with her two daughters. She gives her two-year-old the food that she gets for her sehri, because there is no milk given to the children in the morning. When the child cries and protests, she calms her down by saying, "Eat it, I know it is dry roti but you have to eat." She then explains, "At home she gets to eat meat, rice, fresh roti, pakoras, but here, she doesn't even get enough milk. In the evening, a little milk in a small cup is given for the kids along with biscuits."

Coronavirus outbreak Separated from children meagre iftar and sehri how Ramzan is celebrated in a Delhi quarantine facility

Sehri being served at the quarantine centre. Firstpost/Ismat Ara

She adds, "At home, we would all be together. We would eat together and mark the month of Ramzan. My family is not here. Only two of my children are here, the other two are with neighbours. How can I be at peace? My daughter is crying and it doesn't feel like this is a special and holy month. I hope I don't have to spend Eid like this." Saima had come to meet a relative in Nizamuddin with her two daughters, before being put in the quarantine centre. She is the sole breadwinner of her family and takes care of four children by working as a domestic worker.

Meanwhile, after eating a little, Parween keeps the remaining food that's barely enough for one person, aside. "This is for today's iftar," she says and goes to sleep.

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