Last night, I happened to have the honor to be at a party – societal elite’s gathering. I had never been bestowed with such an honor ere, so this night was quite a night for me. I came across souls which were difficult for me to relate to. I had never met so many people from this class at one place like this before.
The gathering was arranged in a ‘house of the lord’ – expensive chandeliers; shiny marble floor; Italian style wooden furniture; vintage crockery; classy decoration pieces; and breathtaking original paintings on the walls were some of the attractions that dazzled my eyes. Apart from this, their silky attires reminded me of the Roman monarchs - adorned with gems and other embellishments.
I have to admit I felt like a fish out of water; someone who didn’t really fit the bill of the gentility but I was having a nice time scrutinizing the ‘Martians’ – and I was returning them the same favor.
The best part was the dinner; the serving was done in silverware with a blinding sheen, and an array of dishes occupied the large glass table. From Asian cuisine to exotic delicacies, from a variety of fruits to colorful beverages; things seemed to have come out of a book illustrating the food in heaven or at any Mughal emperor’s court. Caterers, in their regalia, roamed around crooning ‘yes, ma’am, yes sir’.
I took a bite and I was chockablock – it seemed as if the food was as shallow as the milieu – outwardly tempting but inwardly unsavory. I wrapped my sandwich in a tissue paper to throw it away later, since I could not see any leftovers on the table and I thought it was one of the aristocratic class rules – so I was forced to follow their norms…as the old adage goes ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do.’ Naturally!
Flabbergasted in my mind and stumbled over the existence of such a class in our society, I wanted to take some air so I went out to gather myself. Dramatic, it may sound, but the atmosphere was so intense, I badly wanted some fresh air. The patio was a semi-circle with a fountain in the heart of it.
Just when I was observing some mosaic pattern on the wall, I faintly heard the eesha azaan – very feeble and dead in the deafening Spanish music. I thought it was time for me to leave.
I bade farewell to my hosts and walked straight to my car, thinking about the witnessed pomp and show.
I realized the sandwich was still in my hands (now somewhat stale and sweaty), looking for a garbage can, I reckoned I would better dump it in my kitchen trash bin. Just as my car turned at the crossing, I saw something on the road – was it a dog? May be a big cat? What was that on the road? Oh! It was a man! With his eyes weary; his skin tan; his finger nails blackened to the end; he came forward with pursed lips…I thought he must be hungry, so I gave him the sandwich I was previously thinking to dump. I don’t know how to explain that in words, but he gnawed at that piece of sandwich like an animal. I had never seen a man eating that way ever. I am not sure since when he had not eaten anything, but I can certainly say he was as much a human with stomach and taste buds as the people in the ‘palace’.
My car stood in the mid-way; on my right was the illuminated chateau, where the royals celebrated their jamboree and to my left was a hungry man, born to live on leftovers and to lie in dark alleys. It gave me chills down my spine. I was thankful to Allah for giving me a life better than so many others, and moreover for giving birth to me in a country like ours, where I can see both the black and the white, and can be thankful to realize that I lie in the gray part between the two extremes! I am proud of living in a country with four seasons, but I think it makes me less proud to be a part of a system with such an imbalanced social equation.