With 20 minutes left for iftaar, two large tables were already set up on the Tangail Shaheed Minar grounds. A large banner on the side proclaimed - “Month-long iftar for everyone.”
Many people were already collecting food from the tables.
As the Maghrib azan sounded, the crowd in front of the tables swelled.
The servers began dishing out muri, dates, piaju, beguni, jilapis, cucumber pieces and sweet drinks. The organizers said twice a week they also serve khichuri and meat.
Two organizations, Tribeni Tangail and Batch 1992 of Bindubashini Boys High School, have been arranging this iftar since 2016.
Every day they serve 200-250 people, for a budget of Tk10,000-12,000. The costs are borne from the organizations’ own funds.
On the Shaheed Minar grounds, people from all walks of life were sitting down in neat rows for iftar. Some are students, and most are transport workers, beggars, homeless and destitute.
Ahana Begum is a regular to these iftars.
“I beg on the streets, and often I cannot find anything to eat. I have been coming to this free iftar service every day. Many people like me come here,” she said.
Picking up scraps is what the 60-year-old Anwara Begum has been doing for a living since her husband’s death. She is homeless and often has no idea where the next meal will come from.
For a month at least, one meal is set aside for her by the organizers.
Van driver Md Karim said it was too late for him to go home by the time the azan sounded, and the free iftar service was a godsend for him as he was so hungry from fasting all day.
“There are six or seven of us here every day. I feel honoured to be a part of this.”
A passer-by said the two organizations were the first to arrange such a service in the district.
“No other organization has ever arranged such events in Tangail. I appreciate their initiative. Every day many commuters like me come here and take iftar together,” he added.
Jahangir Alam, a staff, said: “There are seven to eight staff who serve iftars. We feel lucky that we can distribute free iftar among people. People from all strata of society come here.”
Bimuty Bhattacharya, an executive council member of Tribeni Tangail, said: “We arrange this service because there are many people who cannot take iftar on time either because of lack of money to buy food or they remain busy at the time of breaking their fast. Given these issues, we arrange iftar for people of all strata.”
He called upon the wealthy to come forward and arrange such services for the people.
Echoing him, Tribeni President Momenur Islam Bappi said: “Apart from the iftar service, we provide many social services to the needy. We hope that more and more wealthy people would get inspired by these initiatives and come forward to support the helpless.”