Corona spells trouble for caretakers of wedding horses

Hyderabad: The novel Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on traditional Indian spring weddings, leaving legions of both Hindu and Muslim couples and especially the wedding organisers that includes caterers, function hall owners, convention centres owners, band masters, dishwashers, servers, vendors and wedding horse owners. Celebrations and their seasonal business orders of weddings are postponed or cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.

Perhaps this year, the season of wedding business have been worse affected. Due to the pandemic, several businesses that made their money during the wedding season, which starts from March till December, are in dire straits.

Besides biryani and Irani Chai, Hyderabad is also known for its lavish weddings. As for people from various communities like Muslim, Hindu, Marvadi, Sikh, Jain, Yadav, and Agarwals, they spend lakhs of rupees on everything from matchmaking to makeup. 

This lavish weddings supports thousands of labourers and working poor. This includes cooks, servers, band masters, wedding buggi, horse, and other lightings used for grand baraats. Many make their annual income usually during the wedding season. The cancellation of many big weddings during lockdown is an indication on how the pain is being felt by everyone. 

Their wedding cancellation did not bode well for wedding horse owner Mohammed Aslam and the 15 or so wedding horse owners, band masters, laborers who hold stick light and petromax light in the baraat.

Aslam had received pre-bookings and he was planning to hire with a big hole. He also bought new beautiful horses for wedding season before the lockdown so that he could earn more money. But now Aslam and others who run several of these shops at Hoontwadi in Chudi Bazar are not even left with enough money to feed their horses and camels which they use for business purposes. They receive orders for weddings, festivals like Bonalu, Ram Navami juloos, Milad rallies, Alam rallies, and gyarwi rallies.

Aslam, owns a shop on the banks of Musi river, the area which was allotted by the wife of Nizam Umda Begum. This particular area was named as Hoontwadi as this area was a dedicated market for horses and camels. 
Speaking to, Mohammed Aslam who is also a professional horse trainer said, “This year the season is a lost business opportunity of over five lakh rupees for us.” 

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Another wedding horse vendor, Mohammed Azam was planning to make his wedding horses ready for the baraat adorned with beautiful silver jewellery for his female white horse Jamna who his eight feet. He also prepared his staff of 10 laborers and 10 band masters with all new tunes to be played in weddings. 

He has now has to slash the salaries of his staff and remove some his workers due to no bookings. Some how he had received food help for his 40 horses from Dr. Virendra Khwaja and Mrs. Rebica from Hyderabad Race Club. 

The would-be groom Atif Khan and his fiance, Syeda Ayesha, were planning five full days of celebrations and ceremonies for more than 2,000 guests. The latter had a dream that his groom will come with big band baja baraat on a ghodi (female horse) and she will go in doli for the wedding. 

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“There is no business right now even after the relaxation several other local businesses have been reopened. But when will our business take off? Even we are sanitising our horses, buggies, dolis and making our band masters wear face masks mainataing social distancing showing to the customers but we are not receiving any orders for baraats,” he said. 

“So we at Hoontwadi share the burden,” added Azam.

Yusuf Khan, a caretaker of 15 white horses, would have sent his horses for a big baraat had is keeping his horses in the shop as this and other bookings go by the wayside. 

“This work is the only sole of my income”, said Mohammed Aslam who had been running a shop at Hoontwadi since three decades earlier his great grand father Jaani Bhai use to run this shop during the Nizams’ time. The pain rippled to these caretakers, their horses and the occasional elephant who makes appearances at Hyderabad traditional nuptials. 

Nearly all wedding celebrations have been canceled this year or at least postponed. 

“The scale and size of grand weddings will decrease and these are challenging times for the caretakers of horses at Hoontwadi,” said Mohammed Aslam.

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