12. The Dinner
One thing which is essentially required to keep hunger at bay, is the thought of food. The thought of the stomach with a heart full fill, always seems to satiate the hunger. At least this worked with Peter, always!
Surviving on a daily allowance, which is not enough for even a proper breakfast, for a full day, is an art which Peter could teach to many, who never seemed to have enough.
Back home, he has two younger siblings and parents to take care of. His father has difficulty finding the dyeing and printing work in monsoon. At 17, not old enough to be an adult and too old to be a kid, this year he came to Goa, to be a loader on the vehicle which one of his relative drives at Arambol.
He got a room, big enough to be a bathroom, to sleep and cook and call his own.
Having breakfast in the morning is important for Peter, since on most of the usual days, it is hard labour, picking and delivering heavy goods. A couple of Paav, along with Bhaaji and a cup of tea is his usual at Hotel Mahadev. This leaves him less by Rs.30 out of the daily allowance which he has kept for himself, of Rs.100.
There are no meals in the afternoon, except another cup of tea, which is specially prepared for him at River View Restaurant, while his uncle have his lunch with couple of drinks.
The dinner is his favourite subject to talk to, not with anyone else but with himself and occupies most of his idle mind on hard day’s, as if providing an escape path, whenever he felt that drudgery was getting too much of him.
After all, the deepest pleasures and pains of within can be shared with no one else but self!
All through the day, he entertains himself with various permutations of what he would have for dinner and how would he cook them. Though, Rs.60 left with him at the end of the day, does not leave him with too many options, but then Peter knew that options are limited only by the limits of one's imagination, so he would let them soar all through the day, and as the evening would close by, he would let them come ashore to the reality, as forlorn wave reaches its destination, after wandering for a while.
Today he has decided to cook scrambled eggs, rice and mashed potatoes fry. The day has been turned in at 6 PM and he has been dropped at village market square of Arambol by his uncle.
Peter decides to celebrate an unusual hard day at work with his third cup of tea of the day. He need not buy rice today, so that gives him this opportunity of small indulgence.
Being tired, he sits for a long while at Hotel Mahadev, listening to conversation of people around; which gives him some consolation that its not only him, in this world, taking out the injustice from whomsoever out is there.
As it starts getting dark, Peter pays and walks out to shop. All this while he has calculated a few times, what he would buy, upto the last penny. Trusting on providence, he does not save for tomorrow.
Peter buys three eggs, half kg of potatoes and onions, a pack of mixed spices and some coriander, chilli and ginger.
Stars were turning out, as he reached his room. There was some noise coming from one of the other rooms in the line of five and he could recognise the voice of that small boy, who was often found by him, sitting outside and staring at stars, as if calculating the distance he would have to run, to get away from here, somewhere closer to them.
He kept the grocery inside and came out and sits on the block of bricks, waiting for the kid to come out for his stars.
A little while later, the boy comes out crying, but after seeing Peter, muffles them as if embarrassed, on losing the tears.
Peter calls him softly, and asks for the reason of his pain.
Melvin, the boy, narrates his story. He lives with his stepmother, father and two half brother and sister. He manages to have lunch at school provided by the missionaries but dinner he has to forego. His stepmother denies him the food every night saying that his stepfather does not bring home enough to feed him every night. So he comes out, and sits under the stars as his half siblings have their dinner.
Today, the lunch was not served in the school and that's why he was very hungry and requested his stepmother to serve him some rice too, at which she got angry and hit him. This is the reason, why he was crying.
Peter did not know for few moments what to say or what to do. Wiping the last trail of Melvin’s tears on his innocent face, he says to him , from today onwards, he could have dinner with him every night.