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Breaking Fast at Mumbai’s Nightly Ramadan Food Festival

Photographer Hashim Badani captures the month-long khau galli

It’s Ramadan in Mumbai. During the Islamic holy month of fasting — known in parts of South Asia as Ramzan — a historic street in the shadow of the Minara Masjid comes alive at sundown for a nightly food festival. Vendors from all over the city greet practicing Muslims with barbecue and sweets as they break their fasts on the road, known during this time as a khau galli, which literally translates to “eat street.” All in the city are welcome. Local photographer Hashim Badani, who has been visiting the annual food festival for years, captured the scene for Eater.

Monsoon season has begun in Mumbai, and when it isn’t raining, it’s humid. “I was soaked one way or the other,” Badani says of the shoot. Sweat is par for the course as crowds of street-food fans and hungry Ramadan observers stream through the street in continual motion, packed as tightly as a train during rush hour. “Basically there’s no way you can go to khau galli and stand still,” says Badani. “You’re eating all this fatty food, but you sweat it out by the time you leave the lane.”

There’s plenty of meat, like chicken tikka and goat brain masala. But the sweets, some of which are only available during this time of year at festivals like this one, are the real draw, Badani says. At khau galli, revelers dine on phirni, a sweet rice pudding served in clay pots, deep-fried malpua pancakes dipped in syrup, and mawa jalebi, swirls of sweet, deep-fried dough.

As Badani photographed the scene, the vendors readily indulged the camera, offering free sweets and pausing just long enough to keep the line of customers moving along steadily. Many of these hawkers earn as much during this nightly festival as they will over the next six months, Badani says.

The market doesn’t shut down until the sun comes up the next day, after the street-food cooks have fed post-work diners, late-night crowds, and Muslims going for a bite before dawn prayers. During Ramadan, all of these people flock to a part of the city that most don’t normally visit for the khau galli, and it’s nice, Badani says, to see the people of Mumbai come together over food.

Hashim Badani is a Mumbai-based photographer.

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