Hunger is a monster. It drives many a man mad. If someone doesn’t go mad, he takes certain actions unimaginable for some of us. Hunger was at Ghani’s doorstep and he wanted to avoid it. The food in his house was over. He had nothing to feed his family comprising his wife and a two-year-old son.
Before COVID-19 broke out, they lived a happy and rather prosperous life. Ghani worked in a factory; his wife sewed clothes and together they made a handsome amount to run the household. They loved their son who was born to them after five years of their marriage. They would do anything to see him happy. A smile on his thin lips would make their house glow with joy.
But all was not well now. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Ghani lost his job and his wife stopped getting sewing orders. They had survived a month’s lockdown on their hard-earned savings. But now the resources were depleted; they had spent all their money except a few hundred rupees. Ghani was engrossed in a deep thought of what to do next. “Take tea; it’s getting cold,” said his wife. “You must go to the bungalow and meet factory Maalik* to get some money,” she suggested.
Wives seem to have the best solutions to problems, but the problem with their solutions is that they are more theoretical than practical. Similar was the case with Shaharbano’s suggestion. “How and why in the world a rich man is going to meet me, especially in the pandemic situation?” thought Ghani. Despite this, Ghani nodded as any other husband would react to his wife’s suggestion. But he knew in his heart that it was not practical to meet a millionaire. So, he decided to meet the factory manager. He gulped his tea and left his house for the managers.
“I am a poor man with no resources at all. Please give me some advance payment so that my family can survive these tough times” he implored the manager. The manager was a cold man with a high sense of duty shown at the wrong time. When the people needed help, he would remind them rules. “You were a wage-earner at the factory and not a regular employee,” he said to Ghani. “Even the regular employees have not got a full salary. How could you desire an advance when we are not sure whether you would work for us or not in the future?” he said setting his spectacles on his thick nose. Ghani left in utter disappointment.
He then headed to his friend who was a manager himself in another factory. He banged on his door so much that an old neighbor came out on the balcony and asked Ghani to knock at the door no more. “The virus has made people vile,” he said. “They won’t open the door even if they are inside” the old man continued. Ghani had travelled so much on foot that he had lost all his time.
It was already 3 o’clock in the afternoon. At 4 o’clock, the ease in curfew would be over. “I couldn’t do anything for my family” he thought. Tears swelled in his eyes as the thought of his wife and son going hungry that night crossed his mind. He covered his face in his hands and started crying. Men are strong; they don’t cry. But the pain is unbearable sometimes, and tears help lighten the heavy burden on the heart. Ghani wiped his tears and headed to his home.
It was half past 4 but Ghani was not back home. Shaharbano started getting worried. “I might not have asked him to visit the factory owner,” she thought “God knows how they have treated him.” At that moment, somebody knocked at the door. Shaharbano rushed to the door and opened it. She was relieved to see Ghani back home. He was carrying a sack of flour and a shopping bag of grocery items. Shaharbano was delighted to see all this. “How did you get all this? Did the factory Maalik give this to you? Did you buy Umar’s favorite food?” Shaharbano threw question after question at him. “Let me take some breath. I am very tired. I’ll tell you everything later. For now, just set these things in the kitchen” replied Ghani. “Where is Umar” he asked. “He is asleep” replied Shaharbano. “Fine. I am going to take some rest too.”
Ghani changed his clothes and went to the room to get some rest. As Shaharbano was taking Ghani’s clothes to the washing area, she felt a card in his shirt’s pocket. The card read: “Two bags of blood. 1000 Rupees each. 2000 Rupees paid to Mr. Ghani”.
Ghani sold his blood to buy food for his family. They wouldn’t go hungry, but for how long?
* maalik – owner (of the factory) in Urdu language