Shopkeepers idle away time at Numaish

Images of crowding in COVID-19 atmosphere forced govt. to call for a 10-day temporary halt to the fair

A few Kashmiri boys play cricket with a sawed of piece of playwood between the shops. Some college students walk into one of the cloth store and ask for the price of a striking red shalwar-kameez. On the steps of a shop, a few men sit around and watch a cellphone and laugh.

Inside one of the stalls at the Numaish or the 81st Annual All India Exhibition, Shabir Ahmed sits with aides and tries to calculate the impact of the 10-day suspension of the shopping carnival.

“I am spending ₹3,000 to ₹4,000 per day on food and room rent. Then there is the fear that the whole event will be a washout. They should at least allow people to walk in buy so that our daily expenses are met,” says Mr. Ahmed, who has been coming to the fair for the past 30 years with his exquisite handrafted pashmina shawls and embroidered items. Ahmed is from Safakadal town near Srinagar.

There are dozens of businessmen like him from Kashmir, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and other regions of the country who are now waiting with anticipation about resumption of Numaish. They are part of a business community that makes annual trip to Hyderabad’s Numaish in hope of doing good business and fat profits. But the COVID-19 pandemic, viral images of crowding on the first day of inauguration and the surge in cases forced the State to call for a 10-day temporary halt to the fair on the opening night.

“On an average, we do ₹30,000 to ₹40,000 business per day. Some days it used go up to ₹1,00,000. Hyderabad is good for business,” says Gauhar Wani who has set up a stall for dry fruits sourced from Kashmir.

“If business resumes after 10 days, we will make up for the losses,” he says praising the Telangana government for its calibrated COVID-19 protocol. While medium-sized stall holders have shelled out ₹1,10,000, the GST component to the exchequer is approximately ₹20,000.

“If we are unable to do business we will have to carry back the goods. That will add to our burden. They should allow business to resume and stretch the exhibition,” says Faisal Khan, who has brought chinaware from Khurja in Uttar Pradesh to the expo. It is not just the big traders from across the country who have been impacted by the 10-day suspension of the exhibition.

The lanes leading to Gate No 1 and 2 that are usually lined by balloon sellers, toy sellers, trinket hawkers and sweetmeat sellers are also deserted. “There are no takers for what we are selling. The police are asking us to close this stall,” said Vishnu, who has come from Delhi and is selling petha, popcorn and other sweets.

As the exhibition remains shuttered in a limbo, missing from the scene are the sounds and sight of colourful toys, the smell of sweets and the laughter of children walking in and out with their parents.

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