Hoarding food during a pandemic 

by Siya Aggarwal

A short story about hoarding food during a pandemic 

I see him in the line behind me. His tattered grimy clothes were still sharp enough to be seen, his hungry eyes ached for the lifeline in my feeble hands. I know he wants the same thing I do but there are only such scarce amounts that remain, what am I to do? If I placed some back, my family won’t get enough and he may get a taste but not enough to sustain his family. Who lives? The people with more money? The people who have the luxury to stock up and hoard? The people who can afford to know where their next meal is coming from? That doesn’t seem fair, but unfortunately, it is the harsh reality of the world we live in. I glanced at him and then at the salvation in my hand. I heard a loud roar, at first, I thought a shelf fell down but then I realized that it was his stomach that was rumbling, it was moaning for it to be fed. How do I react? What do I do? It was too much, how did we get here? 

*3 weeks ago*

“Baccha, breakfast is on the table” I called out 

“Coming mama,” said Neena 

She beamed at me as she sat down across me and gulped down her milk. 

“Mamma did you hear the news in the morning?” she asked eagerly

“Mm, some virus in china right?” I said as I lather strawberry jam on toast

“ Not just some virus” she exclaimed, “people think it could spread, even reach us!” 

“you with all your conspiracy theories,” I said with a light smile “we live miles and miles away from China, don’t worry”

“But -” she began

“Enough.” I said “come I have to go to work and you need to begin your work”

She frowned, but then when I laughed and she couldn’t keep up her ruse, she stuck her tongue out at me and dramatically stomped away laughing. 

My beautiful daughter, she is my sole purpose for everything I do. I looked around at our cramped apartment, our middle-class life. I let out a deep sigh as I closed my crooked door and headed to my minimum wage job as a maid. Then I reminded myself that we get by, we’re content with a roof over our heads and food on our plate. Little did I know that even that will be torn away from us in 3 short weeks. 

“Good morning madam,” I said as I set the spread for the family’s breakfast. The family I work for, they are remarkably wealthy, living sumptuous and luxurious lives, I mean just look at their breakfast. A centerpiece as a huge bowl assorted with various hefty fruits, ranging flavors of jams and juices lavishly arranged, an egg station, salted nuts, freshly picked berries, and bread straight from the oven, all elegantly set up. All this just for a family of three, who barely touched any of the food, obsessed with maintaining their slim figures. Yet, they insist on throwing it all out and setting up another extravagant arrangement tomorrow morning. 

“Mm,” said the madam, barely acknowledging my presence. 

As I spun around to walk away she stated “Oh, maid, I need to address something serious with you” 

My heart skipped a beat, madam was infamously known for dismissing staff whenever she was displeased with any menial details. My eyes swept across the food assuring that none of it looked spoiled, stale, or unappealing in any way.

“Where do you live?” she asked still looking at her newspaper 

“Madam?.. Oh.. well I live in Tisdale” I replied uncertainty

“Hmm Tisdale” she murmured 

Finally, she looked up at me and said something that altered the course of my life. “You must know about the virus in China, well supposedly it has reached us over here and there is a speculated case just a block from your neighborhood. I am sorry for this but I can’t put my family in any such jeopardy. We can give you a month’s advance but from now on, you are no longer to step foot anyplace near this residence” 

I look behind at this moment often, everything’s a blur after this point, I frequently ponder about how from here everything went rapidly downhill. The case was confirmed in my neighboring town and it began to spread like wildfire. before I knew it three weeks had passed and I too like every egocentric, inconsiderate, greedy American was lining up in a supermarket to stock up on essentials with my daughter – afraid to leave her alone. 

That’s when I saw him. That’s when I saw all of them. This store, like many others around the country, was emptying, fast. Many had gathered and were scavenging for the few pieces left on the shelves and here I was holding at least two weeks with rations. I consider putting half back but then I glanced down at Neena .I took her dainty hand and looked deep into her innocent pure eyes. I heard her stomach roar and grumble even though she tried to cover it up by coughing. I couldn’t take it anymore, soft tears began to stain my cheeks. I crouched down as the sounds of everyone’s pain swallowed me. 

Is this what we have come to? Society, mankind? How have we reached such lows that I have nothing left to do but starve and watch life slowly leave my daughter’s eyes.

We are experiencing a global pandemic, the world need to come together and unite.