Dressed in a beige hand-embroidered kurta with a brick red jacket, and a tightly wrapped red towel resting on his head, Mohammed Yousuf, a porter, eagerly waits for passengers at the city railway station in Bangalore.
He is among the scores of porters, who despite fasting during Ramzan, continue to work at the station, exerting themselves by carrying passengers’ luggage. Picking up two suitcases and two bags, Mohammed Ghouse, another hamal says, “This alone must be close to 40 kg. It gets very tiring during the afternoons.”
Describing his daily routine during this month, Ghouse says that he wakes up early and ensures that he eats a good meal around 4 to 4.30 a.m. and then heads to work. The porters sometimes work up to 11 p.m. “There is a mandatory break we take at 5.15 p.m. for prayers. After that, we watch the clock tick and the moment it is 6.47 p.m., it is Iftar time. We head to our waiting room to break our fast and also distribute sweets and food to people.”
The South Western Railway officials have provided a room and made arrangements for them to pray and break their fast. Explaining that the mood is upbeat in the room during Iftar, Ghouse says that they pool their money and buy snacks and other food articles for everybody and distribute it so that the hamals get their much-needed nutrition. “Sometimes when officers come during Iftar, we are lucky as they end up giving us Rs. 50 or Rs. 100. With their contribution, we ensure that we have a feast.”
Mohammed Shabbir, who earns around Rs. 8,000, says that some months are particularly hard on his pocket. “There are several times when we need money. But, during this month we make sure that we do not compromise on anything — be it food or clothes. In fact, we work throughout the year so that we earn enough to spend during this month,” he says.