The Habit of Eating Together…

December 30, 2020 at 9:15 AMDec (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Once in a while, quite often, I get an early morning call from a teacher-mentor of mine. Every time he calls me early in the morning, which is early for me and not for my teacher-mentor, I know what the purpose of the call is. As the later bloomer wipes his eyes and answers the call, the voice from the other side says, “Please join me for lunch today”. And more than often I join him at his regular lunch eating place.

Several years ago when I was still doing my post-graduation, this teacher-mentor took me for lunch every single day, when I was in the final semester. My parents and I had shifted our house and it wasn’t close enough for me to go home have lunch and return to college. So, I had to eat out. Recognizing this, my teacher-mentor told me, “You please come with me every day for lunch.” I could not say no to the offer. I could not say No because my teacher-mentor is a storehouse of knowledge and stories. Joining him for lunch every day meant extra time, and that too individual time with him and access to his knowledge and experiential stories. That was an additional advantage over free food.

In those days, I realized that even on the days I couldn’t join him, he wouldn’t eat alone. He would take someone else for lunch and pay for them too. Years after those days of final semester of post-graduation, after all my journeys for higher-education and work, when I returned to my hometown, whenever I go to meet him, he insists I have lunch with him that noon. At times, I would receive a morning call from him and that would seal my plan for noon. Sometimes, the call would arrive just before lunch hour. “Today there is nobody to accompany for lunch. If you are free, please join.

“One day over a good meal when I asked him, he told me why he cannot have lunch alone. “Ours was a huge family and we were poor. There used to be limited food. If we were to eat separately, the one eating first could’ve eaten more, leaving less food for the ones eating later. Or, fearing not much will be left for the ones eating later, the ones eating first might eat less. My mother wanted to avoid this. So he always insisted we all eat together and the food could be distributed equally to everyone and all could know the hunger levels of the other and share food considering everyone’s needs,” my teacher-mentor told me. Mentioning that it wasn’t backed by any higher philosophy such as ‘a family that eats together stays together’, but was just a strategy of a poor family. He recollected this to demonstrate how this practice got him habituated to eating together. He then said, “Now, I just can’t eat if I am alone.”

I was deeply moved by this anecdote and wondered how did he manage to have dinner all alone at home after his wife passed away. Did he eat alone or did he start skipping dinners, I wondered!

Around two months ago, my teacher-mentor contracted Covid and had to be hospitalized. Those days, as much as I was concerned about his health, his recovery, I also wondered, how, in isolation, he managed to eat all alone, by himself, with nobody giving him company. Every time I messaged him, asking him about his health, I wanted to ask him about this, but could never ask.

Once my teacher-mentor got discharged from the hospital recovering from Covid, his son came and took him to Bangalore. It was a relief. After spending slightly over a couple of weeks, my teacher-mentor decided to get back home. That worried me a bit.

The day he returned, my teacher-mentor gave me a ring. “I am back. Please join me for lunch.” I rushed immediately.”

I have gotten used to staying alone after my wife passed away,” he told me and added, “Even when they were taking good care of me and when good care is essential for complete recovery, staying with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren was became uneasy for me after a while”. So he had returned to stay by himself, and I could understand that.

But even now once in a while, I get an early morning call from my teacher-mentor: “Today there is nobody to accompany me for lunch. So, please join.” And I go to eat with him…

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