Food

Snigdha hurriedly gulped down her coffee as she waved bye to her husband. He left early morning to beat the commute. She had exactly an hour to go before she hit the road too. Luckily her workplace was about 10 minutes away. Mornings were always very hectic in the Verma household. Their two kids were still sleeping in, as they had their vacations. This made her leave work early and come back home earlier than usual at about 4 pm. She did handle a stray work call or two from home if needed. But before that, she had to get the cook to prepare  lunch and of course feed her not-so-little baby, her doggy, Toffee.

***

Mala had left her house at 6 am as she had to catch that 6.15 bus. Even that early in the morning, it was full. She woke up at the crack of dawn instructing her elder daughter to sweep the tiny floor and wash the clothes without wasting water. She normally got back by 3 pm after having worked in 5 houses. Her work was backbreaking. Most days, she got nothing to eat and had to suppress her hunger pangs by constantly chewing gutkha. She got not a minute to sit as she went about cleaning the utensils, sweeping, mopping and tidying up lovely homes. Her own was a hole in the wall in a slum that had erratic electricity and no running water. She had to buy water from the tanker person who came twice a week. The husband also left early to work as he had quite a distance to commute to a stone quarry where he was a daily wage earner contributing to the high rises of Bangalore.

***

Arti walked in as Snigdha glared at her. “Sorry madam, the child was sick last night. I could not…”

“I have no time to hear your stories,” Snigdha cut her off. “Just begin cooking!” Arti quickly washed her hands, as she went about peeling the vegetables. She was going to make noodles and a Chinese curry that the kids liked, for lunch. Luckily, the kids were going to have cornflakes, so she did not have to prepare breakfast today. A single mother of two children, Arti was a skilled cook hence she was quite in demand. She lived with her own mother in her own 1-bedroom house. Her children were studying in a government school. She had big dreams for them. She had picked up many foreign recipes from Snigdha who herself enjoyed cooking especially the exotic kind but found no time these days to spend in the kitchen.

***

Arti was out of the house in half an hour’s time as the lunch went into casseroles. She rushed to another home in the vicinity.

***

Toffee was scampering about merrily having finished his hot meal which Snigdha had cooked with her own hands. Brown rice with boiled chicken and vegetables that she made fresh every morning. The cook did not touch non-vegetarian food. He had finished licking his plate and was now licking the faces of the two kids who adored him. Reema and Rashi woke with a smile. As they rushed to the toilet, Snigdha was already ready for work waiting for them to be awake. She cajoled them to have their breakfast on time. The girls took it easy on weekdays especially since both parents were away at work.

***

Mala was mopping the floor and almost winding up when she saw Snigdha open the fridge door. The fridge was packed with leftovers. Snigdha cursed to herself. Last night’s palak dal and aloo gobhi were sitting in the fridge. The girls were having Chinese for lunch. She took the casseroles out when Mala’s frantic voice stopped her. She had been seeing this routine for the past few days since she joined. She plucked  her courage to intervene. “If you don’t mind, madam, can I take this food home?”

“Really, you want to?” said Snigdha. The amma before you refused to touch food that was cooked in a non-vegetarian house. Mala smiled and nodded. “Yes, some people throw such tantrums. I would be glad to take this food home. I don’t mind leftovers at all.” Snigdha quickly packed the food in two plastic containers of the takeaway kind.

***

Mala was done by now. She smiled at the thought of the wholesome food. She had seen that thick dal with a redolent ghee tadka and the glorious aloo gobhi. Her kids were going to be so happy today. Most days, she made a very watery sambar with shriveled veggies and rice. Groceries and vegetables were so expensive these days. She hardly could afford putting two meals on the table daily.

***

Snigdha was happy too. She hated throwing food away but she hated eating leftovers as much.

Pic courtesy: smarnad at Freedigitalphotos.net

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48 Thoughts on “Food dilemmas

  1. Such a mighty point made in such a simple way. Very nice.
    I did get a bit confused between the names Sheela and Snigdha in the section where you introduced the cook into the story.
    Rickie recently posted…Practically A Movie Review – Happy New YearMy Profile

  2. And a story which is true in most households.
    In my sister’s case it is the exact opposite. The maid doesn’t eat anything stale. So she takes the fresh food. My sis eats the leftovers 🙂

    • It is, Bhagya. I don’t mind eating leftovers either. And, I don’t mind giving fresh food like breakfast to the maid. 🙂 Don’t know what to say about your sister. 🙂
      Rachna recently posted…Food dilemmasMy Profile

  3. So real. I face this dilemma all the time. Social commentary at its palatable best, good one
    Ritu Lalit recently posted…The parent-child conundrumMy Profile

  4. The tale of two/many different realities. Very nicely portrayed, Rachna.

    I just felt so sad for Arti when Snighda cut her off as she was about to speak of her sick child…it only takes a few minutes to just lend a patient ear. This is the least compassionate thing we can do for people who work for us.
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…Current Events 9: Poverty is Not RomanticMy Profile

    • Thanks, Beloo. Glad you picked up that little nuance. Often, and me included, we are so caught up in our own struggles that we fail to behave compassionately with others. Of course, morning time is harrowing for most women.
      Rachna recently posted…Food dilemmasMy Profile

  5. More food is wasted in India than in any other country both before cooking as well as after cooking.. A very strong message in this short story indeed…
    Prasad Np recently posted…Best Mexican Food in IndiaMy Profile

    • Thanks, Prasad. Glad you liked the message. I actually thought that more food is wasted in the Western countries. I have seen how much food Americans waste. It made me feel quite nauseous. I think, in India, we’ve had the culture of not wasting food hence we emphasized finishing all that is on our plate. We also place emphasis on fresh, hot food. Therein lies the dilemma.
      Rachna recently posted…Food dilemmasMy Profile

  6. The morning atmosphere in the houses of both class narrated very well. The next generation in the working class are coming up very well and they hate the upper class. And people say that we don’t get sincere helpers nowadays!

    • Yes, I am glad to say that many of them are. Their parents have recognized the importance of education. In a way, we are all selfish, Sandhya. So many of us don’t give our helpers food, drink or even a kind ear but expect them to be extremely compassionate. The other side of the coin are those helpers who are in this to just exploit and care nothing for the compassion of their employers.
      Rachna recently posted…Food dilemmasMy Profile

  7. I just loved how you stitched everyone’s story. So powerful and striking, each mother trying to maintain the household in all possible ways. Brilliant narration.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…The Wild ThingMy Profile

  8. One person’s waste is another person’s treasure, isn’t it? You’ve weaved the stories of all the characters in such a way that the flow is maintained. Interesting way to make a point, Rachna. Nice.
    Sid recently posted…Eggs on SundayMy Profile

  9. I hate people who waste food. Such a beautiful story, Rachna.
    Saru (@BaawriBasanti) recently posted…Of small towns and their unparalleled charmMy Profile

  10. A telling commentary on the realities in our society. Appreciate the divide brought out in the two women’s pressing morning schedules, as well as how this story ends. Many of us demand employee rights and benefits from our organisations, but forget to extend the same to our domestic help or the unorganised sector worksmen with whom we come in touch.
    Ami (Yearful of Sundays) recently posted…#MeetSouthAfrica with Jonty RhodesMy Profile

  11. I personally hate to waste food, so I don’t really mind eating leftovers. Loved your narration of the divide that exists in our society. Gives us all some food for thought.
    Shantala recently posted…Identifying our X-Factor #AtoZChallenge 2015 @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  12. Very well written, Rachna! Story of every house. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure 🙂
    Priya recently posted…Make CD Spinners with Mad Stuff with RobMy Profile

  13. Chicken soup for the soul.

    Loved reading it.
    purbaray recently posted…Blockbuster drama, now playing in a movie hall near youMy Profile

  14. Nice story.I remember my mom used to cook more than what was needed and used to wonder why she could not make the exact quantity needed.Little did I know then that she did it consciously to give the poor maid with many children.Left overs should not be thrown but given to the needy.
    KP recently posted…The elevatorMy Profile

    • That was really nice of your mother, KP Sir. Sometimes, some helps do not want to take the food. Perhaps, they feel that you are giving them stale food or they feel it is condescending behavior. And then the other side is those employers who give rotten food away. I think being humane in our approach is very important especially towards food.

  15. Wasting food is a serious concern, with so many people just dying due to lack of nutrition. Sharing food is sharing joy and sharing health.
    Liked your post, how it showed exactly same scene in almost every house hold.
    swati Bassi recently posted…Anger and DisasterMy Profile

  16. I began reading with great interest, then began to fear this is going to have a sad and depressing end but in the end, was smiling ear to year. Such a sweet, touching, delicate little story told so beautifully. Sad depressing endings too are every bit real but what can i say, i have a weakness for happy endings. Thank you for that story.
    Mamta recently posted…When Awakening Came From an Unexpected PlaceMy Profile

  17. Many times I wished there was someone I could give left over food too….since there are no maids, we end up eating all the leftovers… 🙁 at least me…no food wastage in my home…In U.S, people waste a lot of food…You should see in my kid’s school during lunch. Each kid’s tray has more than half of untouched food and it just goes into trash 🙁 even the homeless would not take a leftover…it has to be either fresh or untouched food or nothing…I feel it so strange.

    • Yes, I can understand. These days I try to cook not too much excess. That way it can be consumed with very few leftovers. Yes, the food waste in US is atrocious. I used to feel nauseated. Some people do associate leftovers with stale food sadly.

  18. I agree that better to give away food than throw it. Every day there are many people who go hungry.

    About 30% of the total food production is wasted. Imagine if this 30% food would not have been wasted, then we would have had no agriculture in those lands, meaning less of pesticides sprayed… less of poisoning of the soil, so less of health problems. Less lands tilled means, less requirement of water. So less water wars….
    Sabyasachi Patra recently posted…IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 7 Issue IVMy Profile

    • It is, Sabyasachi, but many helps do not wish to take them. I do agree with all that you say. It is important that we educate our kids about the prevalent hunger and lack of food to enable them not to waste food.

  19. Why we can’t eat leftover food is beyond me. But compared to us, the poor are even more proud of the fact that they wouldn’t touch baasa khana. I only give fresh food to the maids. We eat leftovers if any. My present maid is fine with leftovers though. I try to cook exact quantities since I know how much we need. When there are guests, chances are, we will be eating leftover food over the next day!
    Zephyr recently posted…Opening that window and breaking free!My Profile

    • I know of a lot of people who eat only fresh food. I think it is fine too. After all it is an individual choice. But then the food cooked must be in lesser quantities and the leftovers must be given away. Sometimes giving away the leftovers may be an issue as there is no one to give them to. Therein lies a very real dilemma.

  20. Nice story! So very close to reality! I hate wasting food. Usually, we try to finish it the next day or I share with with my maid. One of my earlier maid would never eat/take food from the fridge, thankfully the current one is more than happy to take it home.
    Shilpa Garg recently posted…Z is for Zen #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2ZMy Profile

  21. I was thinking, what the hell, she has a whole hour and all she has to do is feed the dog and supervise the cook! 😀
    I guess each of us has a different perception of what a harrowing morning is! I was pleased when you introduced Mala’s morning in the very next paragraph to show the contrast!
    Roshni recently posted…Thankful for teachersMy Profile

  22. siddartha on May 9, 2015 at 4:05 pm said:

    Very nice stuff of stories Rachna. You have told a lot through this short stories about wasting food in our country. Several times i have seen that on one hand a person waste food a lot after too much of eating on the other hand person that are dying in the lack of food. simply we all human being should contemplate on this matter. thanks for sharing and looking you forward with another stuff.

  23. We make sure we use up the leftovers within a day as much as possible and it really isnt a big deal to have them actually. Sometimes Ma gives leftovers (on the same day or day after) to our help so that at least someone gets to eat it, without having to throw it away.
    Ashwini CN recently posted…Writing Your Way to Happiness!My Profile

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