The summer breeze rustled through his thin hair that were greyed in patches of forced maturity. Sweat trickled down the wrinkles on his forehead as he looked down at the road that he was walking on, smooth and rock solid, unlike the life that he had.
It was the Holy month of Ramadan and he had been fasting for over 14 hours now. But this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. The middle-classed man can not perceive the pain of hunger the way people like him did. Hunger didn’t mean that you couldn’t eat for a few hours, hunger simply meant not knowing when and if there would be a next meal.
The search for the Iftar dinner, the meal with which Muslims break their fast, had been fruitless up till now. His mouth, dry and wrought, was now beginning to ache for moisture. Opening his turban, he laid it out over his face to protect it from the harsh rays of the sun and continued walking.
On his sides, houses with their magnificence rose to kiss the sky with their beauty.He stared at the tinted windows of their rooms and imagined the people behind them. Queer how in the same world such luxury and poverty had continued to exist, as if two parallel worlds that acknowledged each other’s existence, but never dared to interact.
In the distance, he saw the gate to one of the houses open as a car emerged out of it. His steps grew faster and more rapid as he tried to catch the driver’s attention before he could speed away. His feet burned with the pain of walking fast but he kept on, hoping that this effort would bear fruit and that he would finally have one lesser meal to worry about. The door of the driver’s seat closed and the engine revved past him as his hand meekly went up to the sky pointing towards the God that had created both these men for the same world at the same time. The hand came slower down with a touch of guilt and despair.
That’s when he broke. He broke not because he wasn’t getting what he wanted like most men with luxury did. He broke because there was no hope of getting that which is his birthright while someone else in the same world ate enough in the same day that would suffice the old man for a week. The tears came running down as his head tilted up so he could face the sky. The sun burned through his skin as he raised his hand towards the heavens and called out the Lord to look at his state.
His knees buckled as he fell on the side of the road and cried his heart out at this cruel injustice of life. A smaller car drove past him, then stopped and reversed back. Realizing that they might need directions, the man fixed his unpresentable state and rubbed the tears away. The window of the car pulled down as a little child of barely 3 pulled his head out in delight to see the old crippled man. The child, in his innocent youth bumped his head as he pulled back in and rubbed it while in excited conversation with his dad.
The man in the driving seat came out with a disposable plate in hand wrapped in cling film and presented it to the old man.
“Baba jee, this is for iftar!” He said with a compensating smile. “I know it is not enough but-”
The old man smiled and held the plate of finely sliced fruit with shaking hands.
“My child, this means the world to me.” He said, realizing that the man had no idea that this was food for at least 3 people. “May you succeed in every field of life.” He said with whimpering lips.
The old man walked back home that day with restored faith in humanity. Such people still existed who realized that there were people who lived twelve months of Ramadan every year. His children, a boy and a girl, were fairly glad to see the plate of food in their father’s hand as he entered the premises of their hut. The mother came rushing in to greet her husband as if he had come today after a long day’s work, and the father smiled at seeing his family smiling and happy for at least a day.
Handing the plate over to his wife, he said: “Listen, it’s not enough for all of us. Just give it to the kids.We’ll tell them that we didn’t fast today.”