The Night is Bright

Crowd

A trip to the all-night Ramzan bazaar near Jama Masjid

It's midnight, and half of Delhi is fast asleep. The other half seems to be packed into the narrow lanes that connect Turkman Gate with Jama Masjid. This maze, overhung with electrical wires and overrun by cycle rickshaws, houses Old Delhi's famous Ramzan bazaar.

The market comes to life during the holy month and caters to the faithful who have been fasting through the day. The buzz begins around iftar, the breaking of the fast in the evening, and continues till sehri, the early morning meal before roza.

It's not as if the Walled City ever rests, but sunlight plays up its squalor during the day. Night is kinder — the yellow bulbs give Bazaar Matia Mahal and Bazaar Chitli Qabar a carnivalesque atmosphere. One witnesses the other side of abstinence — the feasting and the festivity — and even a non-Muslim visitor will be sucked into this celebration.

Both sides of the lanes erupt with shops. The majority sell food and a foodie happily realises that when one is fasting from sunrise to sunset, calories acquire a religious connotation. The air you breathe in is packed with the aroma of kebabs. Kebabs and massive pieces of fish are on offer — fleshy, juicy and full of flavour, the way only street food can look. There's a kebab stall every few steps, like milestones to judge how far you can resist a bite due to hygiene concerns. Nonetheless, the hottest-selling item is possibly milk.

Milk? "To be drunk cold, hot or with a parantha or khajla," says a shopkeeper. He stirs milk in a life-sized kadhai and ladles it into earthen pots. Then, he scoops out two inches of malai from the kadhai, as topping — energy for the day. People melt into the crowd carrying these glasses. Khajla, a round bread, is the other essential. "It's soaked in ghee, is eaten with milk and keeps you strong through the day," adds a youngster.

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