When it comes to food, I have always been a bit greedy. It's very easy for me to put an average glutton to shame. Hence, whenever I got some free time between the classes, I invariably hit the cafeteria. That day was no exception. My friends weren't in the mood to walk to the canteen in that heat for the fourth time. Therefore I had to venture alone. The lone glutton!
But my fourth trip to the canteen shouldn't be taken as an indicator that the food there was excellent: because it wasn't! There wasn't much variety to begin with, and whatever food they had to offer was mostly stale, greasy, unhealthy and cold. On rare occasions, you got hot, greasy, unhealthy, less stale food too. On any given days, you could have (hot or cold) greasy samosas, invariably stale burgers, sandwiches of the same variety, and Chilly Milly! For beverages, they had Shandy Cola, Shandy Orange, Shandy Lemon, and Shezan. (Which I continue to consume despite my class fellow's continued efforts to put me off it by referring to it as 'that slimy, yellow liquid') Because apparently the Jamiat had imposed an embargo on Pepsi, Coke and other 'foreign' drinks in the campus, pretending it was done for patriotic and religious reasons. However, I was convinced they were getting a cut from Shandy Cola company, as I can bet anything no one would have bought their beverages otherwise. But I digress as usual.
But, I didn't set out to write about canteen fare!
While I sat on a filthy table, with somewhat less filthy chair(perhaps because so many people had sat on it already?), munching my stale shawarma(forgot to mention that delicacy!) and drinking Shandy Cola and cursing Jamiat for not allowing us to gulp down anything better...there came Sobia.
Now to be honest, at that particular moment I had no idea that her name was Sobia. She was a girl of about 10 years old, and had often pestered me. She was one of a host of beggar girls that roamed the campus whenever they could. At one occasion she had managed to exhort a hefty sum from me by harassing and annoying me so much, that that was the only option to shut her up. She always began her rant by praying that I would get a chance to go to Umrah/Hajj; that I shall get exceptional grades in my tests(I already did, hence that line of attack never affected me); that I should get a 'sohna saab'. The sohna saab part incensed me no end. Merely because at that time that was the least possible of all things to happen to me. Plus how dare she talk about sohna saab at her age! Needless to say, that we weren't on very cordial terms since then.
That day, she made a beeline for the girls sitting on the table immediately next to me. Perhaps, past experience had taught her not to waste time on me. Anyway, one of the girls on that table was a tall, slim abaya clad girl. I had often seen her while waiting for the point. But didn't know which department she was from. When Sobia went to beg money from her, she laughed and offered a chair to her. This was very unusual. At first, it discomfited the little girl as she wasn't sure what was meant by that offer. Was she going to get a lecture of sorts? Anyway, she accepted the offer and sat down.
Then the tall, slim, abaya clad girl began to interview her. What's your name?(That's how and when I learnt that the annoying beggar girl was named Sobia). Why she wanted the money? Was she hungry? Would she like to eat something? Sobia smiled shyly and said that yes she would like to eat something.
"What would you like to eat?"
So the slim, abaya clad girl ordered a burger for her, and a cold drink too. Most likely a Shandy cola, but for all I know it could have been anything else. Whatever happened after that is a blur in my head, and perhaps unnecessary too. That incident was etched in my memory. My scattered brains picked up two things: 1) She was so sweet to Sobia(I mean Sobia!!). 2) She treated her like an equal, like a human being should treat a fellow human being.
That's another odd fond memory of mine. I have never been able to emulate what that girl did. But she taught me a very important lesson: what I like to call, 'the milk of humankindness'. (picked that up from Shakespeare somewhere)
Yes, I am the idiot who goes around observing people, shaking my head at those who disdain me, and admiring those who are out of ordinary.
Small acts folk, small acts...but they make a huge difference. Remember that Beebly!
I am done.
P.S. Sobia has no idea that I did get a sohna saab(-: