Along the Race Course Road in Tiruchi’s Mannarpuram is Alif Biryani and Tea Stall run by Ashraf Ali, where piping hot mutton biryani is served for free during the month of Ramadan.
Ali anna, as he is better known in these parts, has been serving free meals during Ramadan (a month of fasting from dawn to dusk for Muslims) over the last seven years.
The day begins at Mr. Ali’s shop at around 4 p.m., when a firewood stove is lit and a large vessel is put on the boil to prepare the mutton biryani. “Some days we get tired of eating mutton biryani and serve ghee rice and mutton gravy. That is also a favourite for many,” he said.
A total of 60 kg of rice and 45 kg of mutton is used per day to prepare the biryani. While 300 packets are given for free, around 200 more are sold to those who are willing to purchase it at ₹50. “We purchased everything on our own and gave it all for free until recently. Since our funds have dried out and business was hit during the COVID-19 lockdown, we accept money and use it to purchase the meat,” he said. The rice is donated by a well-wisher. Donors also sometimes contribute other ingredients such as various masala and even curd for the raita.
Mr. Ali also serves the mutton biryani to patients and their attenders at the Tiruchi Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital and other hospitals in the city. “They contact us and request a meal to break their fast. For them, we personally deliver it,” he said. He has even served a group of men at 3 a.m. “They had travelled to Tiruchi via train and had reached the Tiruchi Junction at around 3.30 a.m. They had to eat a meal and pray before daybreak. I rushed to the station and delivered the meal to them,” he said.
To avoid overcrowding at the stall Mr. Ali hands out coupons to his regular customers who are observing the Ramadan fast. The service begins at 7 p.m. and ends before 8:30 p.m. “They can come to the shop and show the coupon and take a free packet of Biryani,” he said. Others place an order a day in advance, he said.
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