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Id in quarantine and shelter

Puffed rice for parents, lachha for kids
Women offer namaz at Harinkhola near Arambagh on Monday.

Snehamoy Chakraborty   |   Bolpur(Birbhum)   |   Published 25.05.20, 07:31 PM

Id celebration, or lack of it, cut a bleak picture in swathes of cyclone-hit districts of North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas and Murshidabad on Monday, acting as a final blow to expectations “already dampened” by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Scores of youths quarantined at local clubs and families sequestered at relief centres echoed the refrain that the lockdown, followed by the cyclone, had caused their “quietest and loneliest Id in a generation”.

At Jhuruli village in Basirhat, fishmonger Yiad Ali Mandal, 35, sat forlorn with his wife and children in a corner of the local schoolhouse on Monday morning. The school was requisitioned as one of the local relief centres last week when Cyclone Amphan ripped off most tin and tiled roofs at the village where most of the 300-odd residents are Muslims. Yiad had just finished feeding his children careful portions of lachha (semolina sweetbread) that officials had distributed to celebrate Id.

“We had known that Id would be worse this year because of the lockdown,” he said. Yiad has had neither the means nor the transportation to procure the Id staples of sevian and rice pudding for his wife and children. The fishmonger said he and his wife made do with puffed rice and jaggery ration, leaving the lachha for his children.

“At least they were able to understand it is Id today. We thank officials for at least making this gesture,” he said.

Across North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas districts, thousands lost their homes partially or completely in the May 20 cyclone. Still, people had the spirit to acknowledge Id and several of them expressed their gratitude to local workers who distributed token sweetmeats.

At Dubakal in Murshidabad’s Domkal, 17 migrant workers spent their Id on Monday quarantined at a local youth club. Although Murshidabad was relatively spared by Amphan’s wrath, the youths’ fate on Id was no different.

“Our neighbours did not allow us to quarantine ourselves at home. They insisted that we stay away,” lilted Hafizul Sheikh, 32, who returned with a few others from Kerala last week.

“We had iftar in the morning, and later, a few neighbours brought us sweets. But it is quite painful to spend Id like this,” he added.

In Birbhum’s Dubrajpur, block and district officials ensured that youths at similar quarantine centres — most of whom are migrant labourers — were given some sweets as a gesture on Id.

Youths in the area were given tea on Monday morning, and lachha and tea shortly after. They were served rice and mutton for lunch.

“We fed around 40 youths in quarantine on Id. We realise it is difficult for them to be away from their families for so long. So, we made this gesture,” said Birbhum district magistrate Moumita Godara Basu.

In coastal South 24-Parganas, where the destruction wrought by the cyclone was “beyond measure” even by official estimates, residents hunkered down at relief centres for a quiet and “different” Id.

“People have taken shelter wherever there is a concrete structure or wherever there is a tarpaulin still intact,” said Baliara resident Ilias Sheikh.

“The biggest celebration for us right now would be having our homes back. So, we are saving our money for that. There is no Id for us this time,” he added.

At the nearby Dakaitmara village in Mathurapur, a group of residents led a community donation drive on Sunday to purchase tarpaulins for the “neediest” in their area. “There are 450 villagers here. We have managed to buy around 50 tarpaulins, thanks to our villagers’ generosity. We will donate the same to the worst-hit families soon,” said Abdullah Mollah, 66.

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