Eid-Ul-Fitr is the annual religious holiday which is celebrated by Muslims worldwide, because it marks the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. The streets of Colombo, such as the Pettah, Maradana, Aluthkade and the Grandpass and Dematagoda markets and many local clothing outlets are flooded by Muslim customers, during the Eid festival, to purchase necessities to celebrate one of the main feasts in their culture. Though that is the usual scenario every year, when Ceylon Today visited those locations this time, it was different. Therefore, Ceylon Today spoke to several customers and vendors in the said locations to find out the reasons behind the change.
Nasar, who has been working in the Pettah for the past 12-years in a stall that sells men’s and kids’ wear, noted that people who have worsened the country’s situation are the reason for the change.
“I’ve been working in this stall for 12-years as daily wage worker; now my wage per day is Rs 1,200 with a family to look after, it is hard to even afford a cake of soap to clean myself after a long day of work. The people are lost between whether they are going to buy something to wear or to buy some essentials to prepare the next meal,” added Nasar.
Manjula Perera, a worker of Magnet Traders at Maradana, which sells clothing material and textiles, noted that it’s only due to Ramazan that they have some sales. After the Eid season ends they do not hope to order any other stocks.
“All the stocks that we imported have increased in prices by 50%. Even the quantity that we ordered had to be reduced by 50% because we can’t afford to go through a loss. Usually, we make several orders throughout the season to keep up with the demand, but this time we managed by importing the stock earlier and still we are trying to finish that stock. The customers who usually come to us still come. There is business as much as we expected but it’s not like other years where people swarm around the shop and try to lavishly buy materials. The customers think twice before buying two materials. The import taxes, the actual prices of the materials in the other countries have all increased,” he added.
Nandana and Vasu, workers of Safa Textiles in Maradana which sells all sorts of Hijab and Shaawl materials said they have stopped importing from India due to the higher prices and increased import levy and taxes.
“Our usual customers, who used to buy various types of materials from us, only bought one or two, when inquired they said that because of Eid we are buying at least the most essential one or two materials. Nobody can purchase as usual now, everyone is going through a tough time. We are helpless when businesses crumble like this. Now there are shops at pettah where they sell retail at the wholesale price, since the start of this festive season, many now buy from those places since people are even conscious about the Rs.10 difference on a product. Many shop with credit cards and go to shops which have that facility since they can pay in instalments. We have been in this business for nearly 15 years now, we can’t imagine moving into another job now. We are just blindly hopeful that everything will be better sometime because if it doesn’t we will have to close this shop and many like us will be jobless and helpless after that,” both lamented.
Nisma, a mother of three children, who earns a living as tailor, noted that it’s only because of Eid that she came to Pettah to buy somethings for her children, if not, managing on her earnings, what to eat next itself is a real challenge.
“Everyone is helpless, we can’t even ask for bargains from vendors because they are also helpless. If not for the children I would not even think of shopping. It’s not easy to shop like in other years, I’ve been making sums up in my head on whether there will be money to buy essentials after buying clothes. Thank God, I am a tailor and I stitch clothes for myself and my daughters by at least by buying materials cheap, if not it will be hard to manage,” she added.
Shiyam, owner of a men’s wear stall, noted that the business is much better than last year due to Eid.
“We couldn’t sell anything during the pandemic, I am happy that at least now we get to sell these. People hesitate to buy in dozens, but they at least buy one or three shorts at a time. I can manage to earn a living to celebrate Eid by that,” he added.
Shenaz, a mother of two and a housewife, noted that though Wattalapan is one of of the main treats and a significant dish for Eid, she doesn’t think that she will be making it this time.
“Forget about making watalappan and sharing with our friends. I’m not even sure whether I will bake a bowl for my own children. An eggs cost Rs 25 wholesale and Rs 35 retail. We will need more than 40 eggs to make wattalappan and gas to double boil it, if I make watalappan I’m scared that we will run out of gas to make the Eid lunch. We hardly managed to find two packets of milk and even jaggery is very expensive and hard to find. It’s so sad that we cannot even make the festival delicacies due to the price hikes and shortages of essentials,” she added.
Abdhul Rahaman, who has been working in a Pettah fancy goods shop noted that due to the job and the shop he can somehow manage the daily expenses but yet the Eid doesn’t feel comfortable as it used to do.
“The businesses have reduced by 50% than the previous years, but yet it is better compared to the other months of this year. These products were imported six months ago, that’s why we could sell them at a reasonable price. I’m pretty sure people will hesitate to buy if we increase the prices according to today’s market price, because the recently imported fancy items shop owners, noted that the import cost is higher than ever and it is hard to keep up with the customers expected prices,” he added.
Siththi Rukiya, who claimed that she is a beggar, who lives off other people’s donations, noted that she begged that morning and found some money so she came to buy some clothes for her grandchildren to celebrate Eid.
“I live alone by myself and earn a living by begging, since I do not want to bother my two children. But as a grandmother, I should do something for my grandchildren, that’s why I came here to buy them something. But when I look at the prices I can only afford to buy clothes for one of them. I will have to go and beg some more to be able to afford to buy for the other two children too,” noted Rukiya with tear-filled eyes, leaving the stall.
Previously, Muslims only look at the night sky and the moon to find out whether to celebrate id the next day. Now they have to look at their salary slips, bank balances and credit limits to do so. The main feature of the festival is to wear new clothes and enjoy the special Eid delicacies but now people cannot even afford to celebrate their festivals due to the shortage of essentials and price hikes. No matter how unsure we are about the future of this country, all the Muslims, in this year’s Eid prayers, will yearn for one thing in common, that’s that the next years Eid could be celebrated better with the comfort of new clothes and with the ability to afford to share all the Eid delicacies with their non-Muslim friends as well.
(Pix by Kelum Chamara)
by Nabiya Vaffoor