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I: “I can’t eat more than this. Stop!”
Chiti (Means Aunt in Tamil): “No, you have to finish it.”
I: “NOOOOOOOOO….” And, I screamed at the top of my voice.
Chiti: “If you don’t finish it, the magician in the next street will pick you in his sack and take you away. This happens to all those who waste their food. God doesn’t forgive you, and so sends his man to pick you in the sack. He picked up a boy last week. Are you ready to get picked up?”
I: “No, I don’t want to get picked up.” The story of the magician and the sack terrified me at that instance, and I remember clearing the plate.
I was 7 then. The story ran in my mind for many days and months. My chiti also reminded me the same story again and again in different versions when I was reluctant to finish the food that I was offered. So it stayed in my mind forever.
Many years later, when I had entered college, and by then my chiti was married with a son, she was repeating the same story to him. My cousin brother, was looking at her, with the same inquisitiveness I had at his age. His eyes was almost popping out when he screamed: “Where is the sack? I won’t go with him and I won’t eat the food.”
My Chiti was losing her temper: “You better finish your food. He will drag you and tie you in his sack. You will never be able to come back.”
My Cousin looked at me and asked: “Have you seen the sack and the magician?”
Just out of teenage, there was a rebel who was sleeping in me, with many confusions of growing up. I just wanted to tell him: “There is no magician and no sack. Eat what you can, throw the rest and move on. And, she has been telling the same story for ages without any change.”
Though one part of me was tempted to say that to him, I still controlled my thoughts and told him: “Yes, there is a magician and he would come out of anywhere with a sack and pick you up. Listen to elders and be a good boy.”
I look back at this story now, I know all that she wanted from us was to eat well and take care of ourselves. Most important, learn and cultivate the habit of never to waste food. I don’t think she built this story herself. Probably someone told it to her when she was a child.
Home-made stories stay longer in our minds, as they remind us of how we grew up and the values we carry forward in life.
Not that I don’t waste food, now. Yes, I do. But whenever I leave that extra morsel of food on the table, there is a feeling of guilt that passes through me for few seconds. I know there would be no magician to pick me up and throw me in his sack, but the moral behind it is something I would always remember.