Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Monday, November 22, 2010

111. Free Lunch

“There is no such thing as a Free Lunch” is a popular saying – which indicates that for everything apparently free, one has to pay a price – directly or indirectly. The term often appears in Economic Discussions – and has serious connotations than this post is trying to portray. The concept has Ecological as well as Scientific implications. Broadly speaking, I agree with this term – when it is seriously discussed.

However, I cannot help smiling whenever I read this phrase or hear someone casually referring to it.

Simply because: I have had hundreds of Free Lunches. I had them in the past; I still seem to have those coming to me and I guess they will come to me in future also.

I am of course not referring to my friends who often offer me “Free Lunch.” The moment I enter into their house, the first question they ask is, “when did you have your last food?”

The question is just rhetoric. Because even before I think ‘what would be the appropriate answer, ’they present me a plate full of food which is followed by tea/coffee/milk.. whatever they think I like. None of my friends have ever expected any return in the process. Even when they visit my home, most of them plan it in such a way that they bring major food. I have to arrange just for daal-chaawal and may be drinking water. I have many such “Free Lunches”.

What my friends in return want is: I should be happy.

Generally speaking we all do our duties appropriately: I mean they feed me and I remain happy. When one is well fed, one is happy.

Interestingly I meet lot of strangers, who have offered me “Free Lunch”.

Once I was traveling to Nagpur by Maharashtra Express. The train is ‘Express’ for namesake only as it takes more than 19 hours to reach Nagpur. I always thought it to be the worst train – but I found another worse one – worst than Maharashtra Express – that is Shalimar Express – a Mumbai Howrah train. But about it sometime later.

The train (Maharashtra Express) leaves Pune in the night at about 11.00. I had a hectic week ahead and I had just come out of another hectic week. Some work related things were becoming stressful than I could manage. I had not slept well for almost a week because I was reading an interesting book. Altogether I was tired. The train reaches Nagpur at 3.00 in the afternoon, it has no pantry car, and nothing interesting is available on the platform food stalls. I often skip eating during travels.

So, after the TT checked tickets at 11.30 in the night, I decided that I will sleep well and get up only at about 2.00 next afternoon.

So I slept. And I always sleep well.

I suddenly woke up because an elderly lady was lightly shaking me. I woke up with a start. The woman in her 60s, smiled at me. She was bit shy. “Are you not feeling well?” she asked. “Oh! I am perfectly alright,” I answered, still confused about what business she had with me. “Do you need any help? Is everything alright with you?” I asked, thinking that she needed some kind of help.

Then the woman was mischievously smiling. She said, “If you are alright, just wake up. It is already 12.00 in the afternoon and I am worried because you are still sleeping. Get fresh and come back.” I was astonished with the order. I am not used to taking orders – neither do I give orders. But anyway, I had enough sleep and thought it would be interesting to chat with this elderly woman.

The moment I was ready for a nice chat, she opened her Tiffin box, filled a paper plate with homemade food and offered me. She had two more plates – one for herself and one for her husband. I was surprised. She explained, “My daughter stays at Amaravati. She arranged to send fresh food at the platform.”

I was not comfortable with the idea of consuming food offered by strangers. I said, “Oh! Thanks and please go ahead. I am not hungry.”

On that Uncle laughed and laughed loudly which made me feel guilty. He said, “When traveling we feel more hungry. And you are younger than us; you are just like our daughter. How can we eat without you? Come, join us. You must be hungry now.”

I was touched by their simplicity. And I realized that I had my last food more than 24 hours ago. I was deadly hungry. I ate with relish. They enjoyed that scene. Uncle opened thermos and offered me a hot cup of coffee. That was ultimate luxury. I had another cup of coffee with pleasure.

Then we were properly introduced to each other – formal name, occupation etc. They invited me to visit their home at Nagpur. I accepted the invitation with a smile –knowing fully well that we may never meet again.

I can talk about at least fifty such experiences. The co-traveler, a man in his 30s; was feeding me all the way from Pune to Kanyakumari. We had interesting talk about Thiruvantantpuram, Pune, his kids, his parents, his wife, my job, my association with Kanyakumari and so on. An elderly couple: sharing homemade food with me at Hyderabad airport – we chatted about their son and grandchildren. It was their first flight, so we talked about flying experience.

So many such incidences! Sometimes I wonder that there is something written on my face that makes people (even strangers) to feed me with love and care.

In these cases, there is no prior bond, there is no expectation, there is no further relationship.. and still I am offered a “Free Lunch”. These are completely “Free” for me.

I am not sure about the social and environmental costs though!


  1. all these instances reassure that all is still not lost! humanity will survive!!

  2. Last line made me chuckle as I was already smiling...:)

  3. Ah! magiceye, that is indeed an re-aasurance!

    Makk, glad to know that you are smiling :-)

  4. I am not so lucky! :)
    But liked your description of events.

  5. Its about giving and getting. giving begets getting !

    Something in your demenour must be on display that shows up your 'giving' !!


    Great to know

  6. Vidyadhar, hope luck comes to you early.

    Kavi, you can certify me when (and if!) we ever meet .. I mean face to face meeting!

  7. Lovely! I have been fed too by all and sundry and though govt keeps cautioning me the people and food look so nice that I eat!

  8. In this particular incidence you were sleeping so entire credit of being good to you goes to that couple. But I feel we (women? or people like us who keep travelling?)can have dialogue with people around very easily. Many times this is the beginning of such (although very short lived) associations Coz I too had similar experiences:-)

  9. Preeti, there is so much inherent goodness in the world!

  10. Where "Free lunch" is concerned, I think, "this happens only in Indya"!!
    When I traveled to Canada some time back, I discovered sharing of food is not common- certainly not with strangers..and may be they have some valid explanation for that..
    But I really missed the customary tea, offered by people, while on a trek near Jasper..

  11. Sachin, yes, it happens only in India .. but maybe in some other countries too which are not that 'developed'!

  12. How wonderful that you are free of the cynicism that comes with that expression :) I'm afraid I have bouts of cynicism from time to time - so it helps to read of how it should be!

  13. Phill, welcome to Times Change. Glad to know that you enjoyed the post. There is so much cynicism around, that I choose to use this space (blog) for breaking away from it and find goodness in life -which fortunately is in abundance!


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