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Long lines for roti at Divali

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Wednesday, November 14 2012

click on pic to zoom in
FINAL NIGHT: Members of the Shiv Shakti Dance Group perform on stage on the final night of Divali celebrations at the Divali Nagar in Chaguanas on Mon...
FINAL NIGHT: Members of the Shiv Shakti Dance Group perform on stage on the final night of Divali celebrations at the Divali Nagar in Chaguanas on Mon...

Long lines of people snaking out of doorways were the common scene at many roti shops around Trinidad yesterday, as persons of all races lined up to buy roti skins for their Divali celebrations.

The surprising exceptions were that of popular roti shops Patraj and Ali’s in San Juan, which were closed when Newsday visited at about 10 am yesterday.

According to the owner of Patraj on Tragarete Road, Samantha Singh, the San Juan Branch usually opened on Divali, but many staff members there were Hindu, and refused to work on the day of the festival of lights.

Therefore, she said, the owners had to keep the store closed.

However, she described the scene at the Tragarete Rd branch as “crazy” as scores of people lined-up, or scrambled to buy roti and collect their orders.

Singh explained that the plan was to remain open until 1 pm for customers to collect their orders. However, the shop remained open until 3.30 pm to accommodate the demand from the many “last minute” customers.

In addition to 600 paratha and 1,000 dhalpourie skins, Singh, for the first time, sold wrapped roti with chicken on Divali. She explained that the shop catered the wrapped roti for a function, but there were extras, which were sold to customers.

“The thing is, a lot of people don’t really care about the meaning behind the day. They just want Indian food,” she said. The scene at Hosein’s Roti Shop on Independence square, however was a little different.

Although there were many customers waiting to purchase their roti, the line was orderly as customers waited patiently, possibly because of the presence of three armed police officers.

One officer explained that the owners of Hosein’s requested police presence in advance, therefore, there were also two other officers, one each at the branches at George and Charlotte Streets. The officer told Newsday there had been no incidents at the roti shop as of 11 am, but they intended to remain on site until the shops closed at 3 pm.

Nazamoon Mohammed, a manager at Hoseins noted that the staff made one batch of curry, but did not cook more when it ran out. She said people seemed to prefer making their own curry for Divali because mostly paratha and dhalpourie skins were in demand.

Mohammed described it as the “normal Divali rush”, but noted that there was an increase in sales every year. She told Newsday production began at midnight, but the stores opened their doors at 5am. “There was a line of customers waiting for the place to open, and the line has not diminished. It’s been the same for the other two stores in town, as well as the ones in Tunapuna, San Juan and Arima,” she said.

Some of the customers complained about the long lines, but queued up calmly, because the lines were expected. One man said his wife had already ordered roti skins elsewhere, but he went to Hosein’s to buy more, because more guests arrived at their home.

Another customer, a woman with two children, said she arrived since 8 am to buy roti, but did not receive hers until 10 am. However, she too understood the rush and waited patiently because she had forgotten to order previously.

There was also a rush of activity at Dopson’s Roti Shop on Maraval Road, Newtown. Manager Dianna Dopson said Divali was usually the busiest time of the year for the staff. In fact, this year, Dopson’s doubled the staff, who began preparations the night before.

Dopson noted that, like other roti shops, customers ordered their buss-up-shot and dhalpourie skins days, and sometimes weeks in advance. However, she said, many persons came off the streets to order.

“We try to accommodate them, but they usually have to come back in a few hours to pick up because there are a lot of people waiting to pick up their orders,” she said.

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