It still has a magic about it that no other festival special has managed to steal. Vermicelli, and the ‘sheer khurma’ made from it remain indispensable dish served for Ramzan.

With the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr (Ramzan) just a few days away, families who deliver the vermicelli at the markets are busier than ever. Several families in the Chaderghat, Imliban, Yakutpura and Dabeerpura areas make the vermicelli, which is turned into ‘sheer khurma’ savoured on the day of Eid.

The strenuous process of making vermicelli began five months ago. The tedious labour involved in preparing vermicelli forces youngsters to give up the ancestral vocation. While Haleem outlets, which have already started the countdown to the month of Ramazan, have become ubiquitous and dot every nook and corner of the old city, this delicacy is largely relegated to the interior streets.

Thanks to the changing times, the long and fine strands of vermicelli or ‘seviyan’, hung to dry on ropes tied end to end on walls, are now only seen in a few households in old city.

“It is a time consuming process and purely depends on the weather conditions. So far, we have supplied hundreds of kilograms of ‘seviyah’ (vermicelli) to various traders in the different markets of the State,” says Syed Naser, a fourth generation family member engaged in the vocation and a resident of Pather ka Makaan lane in Yakutpura.

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Year after year, the handmade variety is giving a tough challenge to the machine made variety. “Vermicelli is made by mixing maida flour and salt in specified quantities. After preparing the dough, we spread it evenly and dry in the sun,” says Yasmeen Begum, who prepares it at her house on Dabeerpura nala road in old city.

Making of vermicelli or ‘seviyan’ is a herculean task and these days only a few families in old city are involved in its preparation. “The huge amount of labour involved in preparing vermicelli has forced youngsters to give up our ancestral vocation,” says Syed Sadeq Ali, a third generation vermicelli maker from Yakutpura.

Handmade Seviyan are preferred over machine made for its ingredients and thinness. “Though made with bare hands, it is thin in comparison to machine-made product. People prefer handmade ‘seviyan’ because it enhances the taste of ‘Sheerkhurma,’ ” says Mohd. Meraj, an old city trader. The handmade vermicelli is priced three times more than machine-made variety and costs between Rs.150 and Rs. 200 a kilogram.

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Traders pay advance months ahead for the Ramazan month to vermicelli makers. As requirements are high and workforce is limited, the activity is carried out throughout the year by a few families. But many more join them, as the month of Ramazan approaches.

“We start at least three months before Ramazan and continue till the festival,” says Malika Begum, from Dabeerpura. Her house is one of the oldest addresses for the local people to drop in to purchase ‘seviyan’. But now she works alone after her sisters and mother dropped out due to age and health issues.

The hard work, however, brings good returns. A family of four can prepare a quintal of vermicelli in four to five days and in the process earn around Rs. 2,000 for each quintal.

However, rains are playing a spoilsport. Vermicelli needs to be dried in bright sunlight and activity comes to halt when there is no adequate sunlight. “There is nothing to worry, we have placed orders well in advance and stocked enough stuff,” says Mohd. Mujeeb a trader at Mandi Mir Alam.

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On any day a family of six persons makes up to 30 kilogram of the vermicelli. “It takes a whole day to dry in the sun. If the weather is cloudy then, two days,” she says.

A kilo of handmade vermicelli costs between Rs 140 and Rs 170 while the regular machine-made variety costs less. Women in several household prefer the handmade variety for many reasons.

“Handmade variety is preferred for the dessert made out of it is worth the effort we put in making the sheer khurma,” explains Syeda Afshan, a housewife.

The vermicelli made in the city is bought by traders from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh too. “Traders placed orders with us months in advance and over a period of time we have delivered sufficient quantities.

However, there is always demand and short supply considering the growing nuclear families and limited families into the trade,” explains Yaseen.

In the city, traders at Afzalgunj, Gulzar Houz, Golconda, Tolichowki, Musheerabad, Erragadda and Malakpet stock the handmade vermicelli. #KhabarLive