When Once I Went Shopping

Posted: September 24, 2012

In our first Shopping Story, Monika Pant writes about a shopping venture that made her look beyond her small circle in life.

Monika, in her own words: I am an English teacher, short story writer and poet. I have authored several series of English course books. My short stories and poems have been published in various collections. I am currently writing a couple of novels based on my experiences as a cancer survivor and a children’s mystery novel.

She sat with her bloated belly on the steps of the bakery in my neighbourhood. As I swung the door open to enter the shop, I glimpsed her pinched face and my heart lurched. Today was my daughter’s birthday and I had come to order a scrumptious chocolate cake for her. She looked at me, half imploring, half indignant that she had to suffer the indignity of pleading. She said not a word, her eyes said it all. 

I remembered the cravings I used to have when I was carrying, and I mused on the injustice of it all. Do cravings merely afflict the rich and affluent? I would not generally categorize myself as one such, but today I felt that it made sense to believe that I was surely one of those fortunate to go for a chocolate éclair, or a kawab, or even a Chinese dinner, if my mood so dictates. Even when my cravings are not justified.

I did not know what her craving was. Nor did I know whether she understood what it was to crave. Merely getting sufficient nutrition for the growing baby in her might be a difficult task for her. Yet, I knew the hunger pangs that visit an expectant mother on a regular basis. That does not discriminate between classes, between haves and have-nots. Even classifying her as a have-not, made me cringe in shame. Who was I to make distinctions of this sort? All I knew was that there was a child ready to enter the world where he or she would have to battle all odds: to survive, to live a reasonably dignified life. Then again, the child might reverse the fortunes of the mother who bore him.

All these thoughts crossed my mind as I reached out and gave her some money to buy some food for herself. Nonchalantly, she took it and got up, probably to buy what she could. I gazed at her retreating back. I felt so poor that I could not give her enough to cater for the baby she was expecting. I started wishing I had given her some more. I wished that I had had a shawl with me to give her so that she could brave the approaching winter.

Though for many days afterwards, I carried a shawl in my car, and my eyes searched for her on the steps of the bakery, I did not catch a glimpse of her. Some day, somewhere, I am sure that I will see her and I will make amends. I hope to thank God for what I have received in my life in this way. A mother taught me to go further in my life and look beyond my limited family and understand what I owe to all those less fortunate than I am.

*Photo credit: focus2capture (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

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