Short Story by Aziz Amirudin (Business Mirror, August 12, 2018)
“What we eat defines who we are,” Abah often said. “The essence of food will grow into body, mingle with belly, and harmonize with mind.” Unfortunately, good meal sometimes needs good money. Our family inherited a small field from my grandpa, but nothing more. It was a healthy soil stretched from the end road of the neighbor village down to the river. The yields never failed us, but nobody wanted to pay a high price for the rice, so he sold it anywhere as long as he got money for us to eat. Sometimes we got nothing to eat, though, except with the rice he planted and some vegetables, topped with salt or soya sauce.
I was inseparable from food my whole life. In the morning, I had to get water from the nearest well. Some of the water was for drink, some for boiling the food. Then I had to help Umi to cook for breakfast and lunch. Before the sun reached the top of our head, my job was to bring the lunch in a stacked lunchbox to the field where Abah worked. Before sunset, after I played, I initiated myself to gather some fruits or freshwater snails to get additional foods for dinner.
I did the chores to get food so I could have the energy to get food again the next day. It was a never-ending cycle. Still, living in the chain of food, I hadn’t been able to define who I am.
Today I skipped a lunch. The grey lines on the cloud told a story of upcoming rain. If I didn’t go earlier, I would come to Abah with soaking wet. I left our rattan-and-bamboo house in haste, the place was about one mile from our house.
Soft soil tickled my bare feet as I walked. Sometimes grass or puddle got in the way. If there were things in life I didn’t regret, walking was one of them. When I moved my muddy feet, I could enjoy the serenity and think. Nature was like my mother making her chilli grind and gado-gado, you had to feel the elements mixed to taste a perfect taste. Now green leaves, fresh wind, earthy odor, and water sound mixed through my body.
Nature could make my mind wandered around. This time it brought me to the past. I passed an open ground covered with palm trees that used to be the ‘basecamp’ where my friends and I played. The basecamp would be moved to the yard of the elementary school near the main street as by the next week they would be enrolled there. I didn’t.