Asad opened the refrigerator door and peered inside. His eyes fell on a huge chocolate cake and some sandwiches, the leftovers from yesterday’s tea.
“Oh God! Why am I being punished like this?” He groaned silently.
It was the first day of Ramadan and Asad was fasting. He had just returned from school and was feeling ravenous. After dropping his heavy backpack on the bedroom floor, he made a beeline for his favorite spot in the house, the kitchen. But fasting meant no food for at least four more hours. He would have to wait till sunset to break the first fast of the month.
Just for a second, Asad felt sorely tempted.
“Who would know if I eat a slice of the cake?” he mused. His parents weren’t home, his grandparents were resting and his baby sister, Fatima was too young to tell tales.
“Somebody would know, “a little voice argued inside his heart. “He, who knows everything, since He is our Creator.”
Asad slammed the fridge door shut in frustration. He was fourteen and felt ashamed of his momentary weakness. He went to the living room where a maid was spooning Cerelac into Fatima’s little mouth. Fatima gurgled and grinned at her older brother who bent down to give her a hug. Asad looked at the pale yellow concoction that was smeared across her face and swallowed hard. Even Cerelac smelled good at this hour.
He flopped down on the sofa in disgust and switched on the television.
“Maybe a nice program will take my mind off food for a while,” he thought, aggressively pressing down the channel buttons on the remote control.
He paused at BBC channel where a cute anchorperson was presenting a report. Asad stared at her for a while without registering the news but then some live images made his attention snap back at the report. Rachel Hayward was talking about intense, widespread poverty and famine in Africa where millions of children perished each year due to hunger and malnutrition.
Asad stared at the disturbing pictures of dark brown skeletal children with distended stomachs. Flies hovered around their faces and their naked bodies, as mothers listlessly tried to wave them away. Their misery was writ large on their faces and their empty eyes bore testimony to man’s inured ways.
Asad thought with a guilty pang about the uneaten pizza he had thrown away in a fit of temper last night. He had ordered his favorite Chicken Supreme but the delivery boy had brought some other pizza and would not take it back. Asad had paid for it and just to show the impertinent delivery guy what he thought of his services, had tossed the pizza into the trash can outside his house. It had felt so good at that time but now he felt like a total jerk.
He remembered how his grandmother always chided him when he left rice uneaten on his plate that was later scrapped off by the servant and dumped in trashcan. He remembered the lavish meals he and his friends ordered in college canteen and then discarded because they could not eat a bite more. If excess, extravagance and waste were crimes, then he was guilty of each one of them.
He changed the channels once again and put on MTV. He had a huge crush on Beyonce but after witnessing the BBC report, the music seemed too loud, too cheerful and even obscene. He switched the television off.
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