“Abbu, look hotel!”, Salim shrieked in delight and tugged at his father’s kurta. Abdul looked at Salim and smiled, he pulled him back from entering the hotel through its huge majestic gates, “We go through the back door okay? Its the service entrance”, he told.
Abdul held his son’s hand tight as he took him through the security check, the old security guard looked at Abdul and smiled, ” Salim’s first time in the hotel isn’t it?”, Abdul shook his head in affirmative and gave him a courteous smile. He didn’t want to get Salim to the hotel, but he couldn’t refuse when Salim requested him, it was the only thing he asked his father in 8 years.
Abdul stared at Salim while he met with the other waiters and chefs at the hotel. How happy he was! Abida would be so glad to see her son this happy, he thought. Salim was a good boy, he always went to school on time, did his homework and studied well, he took care of himself and the house, after Abida’s death Abdul had to scrounge for another job to make sure that there was enough money at home.
Abdul worked in an electrician’s shop from morning to evening and then as a waiter at a hotel till midnight, he never had any vices, would manage to tell his prayers at least once a day if not 5. Never had Salim complained or requested for anything. He too understood the hardships that his father had to face to make ends meet. But he wanted to go to this hotel, after all it was the biggest and the most grand hotel in the city, he wanted to brag about the visit to his friends.
Abdul changed into his work clothes while Salim ate the sandwiches, cookies and pastries that were gifted to him by others at work. Good, atleast today’s dinner has been taken care of, Abdul thought.
The hotel was overbooked for a convention of business men. The staff were busy round the clock and they needed more people working. Abdul warned Salim to not move from his place and remain invisible, lest the manager’s eye fell on him it would be a jackpot as he would have cheap labor and an extra pair of hands to wash the vessels, since he had promised Abida that no matter what he would make sure Salim finished his education and never work at such places.
Salim looked around the kitchen in delight,he was over joyed with the sight huge vessels and the heavenly aroma of food wafting through, the beautiful crockery and how everything was laid out and timed to be perfect. The other waiters explained him that this dinner was a special 5 course meal. He was amused as to why someone would eat 5 times while eating once itself would be filling enough, after all that was how he would eat.
It was well past midnight when Abdul’s shift ended. He picked up an asleep Salim in his arms and walked his way back home.
The next morning, he asked Salim how the trip was, Salim explained in detail how he loved everything about the hotel and that once he grew up and became rich he too would have the 5 course meal and be really happy, saying this he left for school.
Abdul’s heart filled with uneasiness, he wanted Salim to know that to be happy you didn’t need a lot of money and definitely not a 5 course meal.
Abdul called in sick at the hotel that evening, after Salim came back from school as per his daily schedule he finished his homework, played for a while then stayed back at the neighbour’s home for dinner and slept there till Abbu returned. But not today, at dinner time Abdul called out for Salim. Salim was delighted to find Abbu home but his house lay laden with darkness.
Right in the middle of the room was a small table on which, was a flower, a lit candle and 2 disposable plates, Abdul served Salim with his own 5 course meal – nimbu pani, boiled and roasted potatoes, rice with dal, a cup of curd and ice cream.
As both Salim and Abbu had dinner which was engulfed with lots of giggles and stories of school, Abdul looked at Abida’s photo on the wall and smiled, life was not bad.
For to be truly happy, you need to be at peace with yourself and where you are in life.