Hunger is not a choice….
Read about the story of a street balloon vendor’s children from the eye of the author…
For them hunger is just a everyday chore
We were invited to the eleventh anniversary party of our ex neighbors. They belonged to the same cast and were somehow related to the family. A lot of my husband’s cousins were also invited. As one of my husband’s cousin’s marriages was nearing, I was following a strict diet and thought of skipping lunch that day. Also, my husband told me that there is going to be a huge amount of delicious dishes as the host is a big foodie. By evening I was so hungry that I thought I could eat an elephant.
The invite was from 7:30 onward and it was only 7:00. There apartment was on the second floor of a standalone building. By stand alone I mean that this one did not have a big garden, pool etc built around it and thus one could easily see the main road from the balcony. on the opposite side of the building was an eatery serving delicious non-vegetarian food. As I entered the gate, the smell of the rolls cooking on the huge flat pans and the shwarma made me even hungrier.
It was getting dark and there was no sign of food anywhere. They only served orange juice and the little thing did worse to my hunger. The host planned no starters as they did not want the guests to eat much before dinner as the food was ordered from the very famous non-vegetarian restaurant. I had no idea what was coming and how famous the restaurant was. I was not even able to concentrate on anything that people were saying as the hunger was getting out of control. My mind was telling me to go down by making an excuse and eat something.
I thought to give it a try. Everyone was in a joyful mood. People seemed so busy and so engrossed in talking about the upcoming marriage and about who is wearing what, I thought I would quickly slip out of the gate. But as soon as I opened the gate, one cousin called out my name aloud, “hey where are you going? Come here”. I had no choice but to go. I spent 10 minutes in the group and the only thing I understood was that the food which would be coming is going to be very good and the sad part was that it will arrive only after an hour.
One of the cousins was boasting of the restaurant from where the food was ordered. I could not take it anymore and went straight to the living room balcony. I sat on the chair there and started watching around. It was 7:45. I looked down and saw the cook making rolls and shawrma in the open counter of the eatery. I cursed myself for skipping lunch. I decided to keep myself busy by watching around the street and observing people.
After a little while my eyes went back to the rolls counter and I saw a boy standing at the corner of the shop, leaning to a pole and watching the cook making shawrma. He seemed poor by the way he was dressed. As the cook was making the rolls, filling, flipping and then rolling, the boy’s eyes also followed the activity. His eyes were stuck on the pan. A few times the cook asked the boy to leave but he said he did not want anything and would just watch.
I heard my name and as I looked back I saw the lady of the house.
“Why are you sitting here alone dear?”
I confessed my condition to her. She insisted me to eat some chips, juice or other refreshments but I said I would wait. She said that the food will arrive soon and I thanked her and she again insisted me to come inside. I agreed but as she went into the crowd, I came back to the balcony.
The boy was still there. Now there was a couple standing at the counter waiting for their rolls to get ready. The boy’s eyes were still on the pan. This time as the cook packed two rolls to the couple, he gave another one to the boy and with no expressions the boy took it immediately as if he knew that he is certainly going to get one. He immediately asked the cook, ”ek aur milega kya(Can I get one more)?”.
The lady standing there was also looking at this and as the eyes of the cook and the lady met, she gave a nod to the cook conveying that she will pay for the second one. The cook gave another one to the boy. Taking the second one, the boy ran away immediately with both the rolls.
I could see the boy running to the next side of the street and there I saw two more children and a man with balloons standing there selling them. He handed the rolls to the man and the man then kept those rolls inside a polythene bag. After about half an hour the family settled down at the corner. A women and one more child joined them. The man took out the rolls and handed one to the woman. She divided the roll into two and handed them to the older children. The man divided the other roll into two and gave the half to the woman. The wife again divided it into two and gave it to the younger children. The man then took the remaining half and took a bite and gave the rest to the woman. When they all were finished, they took all their belongings and stood up to leave. They clearly did not have a full meal.
I was looking around the streets to keep my mind busy until the food arrives and here these people do not have any choice but to accept the hunger as a part of their life. Whether I had witnessed it or not, this was going to happen. But now that I know that someone who is not that privileged to be hungry by choice, shouldn’t I go and feed them instead of ignoring them? As I turned, I realized that the lady of the house was there too. She was observing me and knew what I would be doing next. As I tried to speak something, she said, “aaj mood mat kharab karna yaar (please don’t spoil the mood today). Come inside, the food has come”. As I followed her I struggled to keep my eyes dry as I did not want to “spoil the fun mood” of the young crowd by allowing myself to feed a hungry family.
Food parcels were opened and the plates were passed. As my plate was passed to me, I sat down on the chair to eat. Chicken rolls and kebabs along with two chutneys and salads were served for the first course.