HYDERABAD: It’s 3 pm and the sun shows Hyderabad no mercy. As people drive from Tolichowki to Shaikpet, they are interrupted by groups of young men in uniforms and broad smiles. They sing out loud the haleem offers of the restaurant they are working for, sometimes throwing in dance step or two or just relying on their core marketing skills.
Meet the ‘haleem boys’ of Hyderabad. They are the ones who get you your order during Ramzan while you wait in your car. Some of them, after fasting all day, do not even get the time to break their fast. Holding placards and announcing the restaurant’s specials, these young men seem to love their job which is no cakewalk, especially in summer.
But for Mohammed Haji, it is a fun month. “Throughout the year, I drive an auto and during Ramzan, I come to Hyderabad where I sell haleem. It is not only more profitable, but also fun because I love singing and selling. In fact, I get incentives for my marketing skills. I take over 100 orders between 4 pm and 2 am,” says Haji, who stands outside Pista House in Tolichowki.
Mujaheed Ali, a commerce graduate from Hyderabad who works for Shah Ghouse, earns Rs 600 a day and has a great time at the job with his friends. “I get so involved sometimes that I forget to eat. We usually get a 20-minute break to eat during Iftar. But that’s the time when customers are also most generous with their tips. Once, I had earned `1,800 from tips alone,” he says.
Ali had to discontinue his studies for a year, but plans to get back to college for post-graduation if he earns well this Ramzan season. “I can finally get a more steady job,” he says. Some of these ‘haleem boys’ end up having only one meal a day because the job is hectic, leaving them no time to break their fast. “My fast begins at 4:30 am and, on some days, I get time to have a meal only after 2 am. During Ramzan, I often end up surviving on one meal which is mostly haleem. It is pretty filling though,” Shamsher Ahmed, a 57-year-old ‘haleem boy’ at Imperial Restaurant in Tolichowki, says.
Some ‘haleem boys’ come from Karnataka to earn a quick buck during Ramzan. “This year, a total of 55 people came from Chander Maharaj thanda, a hamlet in Bidar district. We come here every year and most of us work in Bengaluru rest of the year. We visit Hyderabad only during the Ramzan month,” says Rajesh Kumar, who works at Pista House.
At the end of the day, though their job is tough, the ‘haleem boys’ of Hyderabad enjoy doing it. While it could be to make ends meet or just to make a few extra bucks (Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000), they put their heart into it. Next time they get you your haleem, don’t forget to thank them.