Razia and Yasmeen worked silently in the spacious kitchen. Razia was making batter for the pakoras while her young daughter, Yasmeen was carefully cutting fruits for the chaat.
There was going to be a lavish iftar party in the house later in the evening. The owner Mr. Hameed worked in a large multinational company and a few of his colleagues were coming over for iftar. Mrs. Hameed was busy making delicious dishes and giving out instructions to Razia and Yasmeen.
The sight and aroma of all the food being prepared reminded Yasmeen of the quarrel between her mother and her older brother that had taken place in the morning. Her brother Rameez had passed his matric exams with very good grades and some of his friends wanted to come over to congratulate him.
Razia did not have enough money to feed six or seven boys. Her husband was a car mechanic and Razia worked as a maid in two houses to make ends meet.
Rameez had been bitterly disappointed when Razia had told him that she could only serve a few simple dishes at iftar time. Passing the matric exams had been a special occasion for him and he thought that he would be humiliated in front of his friends. He knew that money was scarce in the house but he wished that just for once, his parents could provide a special meal for his friends.
Yasmeen loved her brother very much. Seeing his anguish and disappointment, she had prayed and prayed for a miracle. Maybe their father could earn some extra cash before evening. Maybe some kind lady would give their mother some money before iftar time. It was Ramadan after all….the month of mercy and blessings.
It was now almost five o’ clock and no such miracle had happened. Razia and Yasmeen were still working in Mrs. Hameed’s kitchen and six boys were coming over to their humble home later in the evening.
Just then the telephone rang out.
Mrs. Hameed bustled out of the kitchen and returned a few minutes later looking harassed and troubled.
“Razia, there has been a change of plans, she said.”Hameed is stuck in the office for an important meeting and the iftar party has to be cancelled. They all have to work late in the night and will be breaking fast in the office.”
She paused and looked at all the dishes neatly laid on the kitchen counter. A few could be frozen and saved for the next day but not all. The fried pakoras and samosas would lose their crispness, the dahi barhas might become stale and the fruit chaat would certainly spoil in the heat and the humidity.
“Razia, why don’t you take a few things home? Just leave enough for my iftar and take these pakoras, samosas, fruit chat, few of these sandwiches and dahi barhas home. I am sure your children would enjoy them,” she smiled kindly.
Yasmin could not believe their good fortune. She helped her mother to quickly pack the food in plastic containers that Mrs. Hameed gave them. She poured the sherbets from crystal jugs into plastic bottles and tightly screwed the lids.
She helped Mrs. Hameed tidy up the kitchen while her mother washed the now empty dishes. Smiling broadly all the time, she went home with Razia, their arms laden with hot, delicious food.
Most of all she enjoyed the look of amazement and joy on her brother’s face when he saw all the food on the table just before his friend arrived.
That night, the young girl slept with a smile on her lips and a heart full of happiness. Her prayers had indeed been answered.
Iftar: The evening meal with which Muslims end their Ramadan fast at sunset.