Patna Muslim vendors educating their children for better future

By Najam Gilani,

Patna: A visit to the Station Mosque area of Patna gives the impression that one has reached in the chaotic commercial atmosphere of Jama Masjid in Delhi or the Bhendi Bazaar in Bombay. The resemblance of the surrounding is identical in nature. Like the other two famous areas of the Indian metropolis, this also is a Muslim-dominated locality, situated just besides the Patna Railway station.

Aziz Ahmad, road side vender of kids cloths in station area

The grandeur of an old mosque and its towering minarets in its vicinity gives this commercial locality a distinctively Muslim identity. The area is a mix of prosperous and not so prosperous Muslim businessmen. There are some who run small hotels selling famous kebab/paratha. In comparison to other businessmen of the locality they are much better off economically. In fact one of the hotel owners has provided best of education to all his three sons and two daughters. One of his sons is a qualified chartered accountant, two others are engineers and both the daughters are pursuing graduation. This is not the one case in point. Other businessmen of the locality, who make some decent moolahs out of their business, have the same tale to tell regarding the education of their children.

Kamran selling locally made biscuits from his bakery shop in station area

In this lot, however, there is a majority of those who don’t have the might of money at their end, to buy for their children a decent educational qualification. For them it’s just a hand to mouth existence. Reason being; ninety nine percent of roadside Muslims vendors are trying to make their ends meet by selling seasonal clothes on nominal profit margins – besides the permanent sale of lungi (sheet of cloth men drape around the waist) baniyaan (briefs) and gamcha (scarf worn around the neck) round the year.

Back side view of Patna Station Masjid

The daily struggle of their survival is full of worries. There is anxiety related to customers (less customers means less business for the day) and then there are worries of raids by the concerned government department for unauthorized selling. In the previous regime of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), government used to issue tenders for the contractors, and they in turn used to collect 3 rupees per day from every unauthorized vendor of that locality.

Front side of Patna station Masjid

As per the local vendors that practice of organized “Hafta Wasooli” from poor people has been stopped by the present state government of Janata Dal United (JD-U), and currently they pay nothing to any local persons.

Life, they say, is hard. Day starts in the morning at 7 and ends at 11 in the night. Majority of them stays in the rural areas and travels everyday for two hours each in morning and evening by local train.

Busy commercial lane of station masjid area

Aziz Ahmad, a roadside vendor of kids clothes said,” business is fine, but the rising cost in comparison to needs makes its difficult to squeeze anything for saving purpose, it’s like digging the well every day to drink water, and in the absence of any contingency fund to meet the crisis of life, it leads to insecurity, which is the mother of all problem”. With his choking voice and moist eyes he said, “Come what may, he will ensure that his three sons get all the possible education, so that they can land themselves in decent income jobs, in philosophical tone, he further added, “to come out from this chronic and vicious cycle of penury and insecurity that is the only way out”.

Majority of vendors of that vicinity were of the same view.

Sure! Experience leads to wisdom.

Bakery shop lane of Patna Station Masjid

[Part II of TCN series on Muslim vendors– read the first part]