Once in a month I am forced to stay bachelor when my wife is away on a week-long tour and son is anyway in hostel. I make it a point to eat out at least one such evening but diet restriction has made me very choosy. Last week was one such period and I decided to eat out on the penultimate day of my bachelor status. I ventured out to the new opened but well known chain of swanky Delicatessen in the neighborhood. I ordered for a chicken croissant and coffee and sat down at a table by the window. I was engrossed in watching the chaotic traffic and the milieu of crowd thronging the market street when my attention was drawn to a father-son duo who was contemplating whether to enter the shop or not. By their dress it was clear that this kind of place was not their regular hunting ground. After few minutes of peeking through the glass facade, they finally gathered courage and entered the shop. The kid was overwhelmed by the decor of the place and tightly gripped his father’s hand as if otherwise he might loss him.
The father in low tone practically whispered to the son, “Take a look and quickly decide what you want to buy”. It was easier said than done, the little boy with wide eye started to check the array of cakes in the glass case. It seemed, he wanted to buy all of them, they were heavenly for him. The counter sales staffs were least interested in them and very reluctantly gave away the prices of the cakes, none them being any lower than Rs.400/- for 500 gm cake.
By this time my wholehearted attention was on them, forgetting about my chicken croissant and coffee. The father was trying his best not to get intimidated by the sophistication of the shop but was clearly ill at ease in the midst of hip crowd hanging around the counter. I guessed, it must be the little kid’s birthday and he probably wanted to celebrate it with a cake just like the other kids of his age. He had his eye on a Red Velvet cake and a Black Forest cake and after much contemplation, the kid zeroed on to the Black Forest cake. The father asked for the price and was rudely told that it was for Rs.450/- (500 gm). He took out the money from his soiled trouser pockets and counted, it was only Rs.300/-. He checked other pockets but nothing came out. He probably was in the Impression that 300 bucks would be enough to buy his son’s coveted cake, having never tasted such a delicacy himself ever. He tried to bargain with the counter staff just like he would do with the grocer or the veggie vendor but the counter staffs were not interested and curtly told him to buy from elsewhere.
Having watched their saga for some time now, I suddenly had an urge to help them out. I walked over to them and offered to buy the cake for them. “If you don’t mind, let me buy you the cake.” I urged the father. But he was in no mood to take my offer and told me sharply, “Thank you but no. Please stay out of our affairs.” I pestered on and requested him to at least accept the balance money for the cake. But he was adamant and retorted, “Told you to stay away. We don’t need your money or sympathies. We will handle it ourselves.” Meanwhile the little boy was perplexed why his father not accepting the money that could buy him his Black Forest cake. He was very disappointed and his eyes were welling up with tears but remained composed like an adult.
I have never experienced such a situation ever before but realized it to be very common in a poor dis-balanced country of mine. The duo started to walk out of the shop but the father stopped at the door and came back to the counter once again. He checked the prices and selected three pastries and 100 gm of Chocolate Cookies, which was well within his limit of 300 bucks. The little boy was jubilant now and picked up the packed. His father has made his birthday special this year. They started walk out and just reaching the exit doors, the little boy came running to me and gave me a Chocolate Cookie from his meager quantity. Even before I could say “Thank you and bless you”, the little kid had ran away to join his father on the pavement outside the shop. I saw them cross the busy street and vanish in the milieu of the crowd.
I looked at the cookie and felt emotions welling up inside me. I wanted to gift him a cake because I had the surplus means and can afford it but the little kid showed me how to share even when one doesn’t have much to share. I picked up the cookie and took a bite. It was the best Chocolate Cookie I ever had in my entire life.