An unforgettable evening in Mukalla [Archives:2004/762/Education]

August 9 2004

By Dr. Umesh Prasad Pattanaik
Associate Professor of English
Hadhramout University

It was Friday, around 7.30 in the evening. After spending some time with the internet at the Friend on Line (Fowa), I was walking back to my flat at Bawazier. On the way, opposite the majestic mosque, a familiar voice greeted me in the hazy lights of the street. When I turned round, I saw Mohammed, a level 3 student of Computer Sciences. He was smiling at me meaningfully. His smile reminded me of what I hadn't cared to remember. Actually Mohammed and his friends had invited me for dinner that evening. I was ashamed of my strange forgetfulness. So, I begged apology and promised to be at their place by 8.30 pm.
Exactly at 8.30 pm I was at their place, which was hardly two furlongs away from my place. I didn't have to knocks on the door. They were all there waiting for me. I was led to the first room, where we all sat together on the floor and began chit chatting in a friendly and lively atmosphere. For about 45 minutes we talked about many things ranging from cinema to religion. While talking, I answered many of their questions relating to the Indian ways of life and their prospects of getting admissions in India. On their part, they provided me with recitations from the Holy Quran. It was an evening well spent, I felt.
Around 9.30 pm the food was ready. The boys excused themselves and went to the kitchen. After some time, two boys returned holding a very big plate between them. The plate was too big for a small party like that, I felt at that moment. When they put the plate in the middle of the room, I saw all kinds of delicious sweet neatly arranged in the plate. For the main course, they had bread, butter and omelets, properly placed on the far side of the plate. Soon everyone came in and we began eating from the same plate, sitting round it in a circle. The food was really good and I enjoyed myself to the full.
After dinner I took leave and returned to Bawazier. On the way I kept thinking to myself: “Can there be better ways of fostering the sense of unity and equality than the simple practice of dining from a common plate?”