The X Page: A Storytelling Workshop

After 12

by Sidra Khan


It’s 12:45 a.m. The doorbell would ring any moment now. I’m in the kitchen, collecting a plate and two small bowls. I start looking for the fancy tray. This tray could easily call itself royalty, with its unconventional shape, dark color, and dull gold handles. My mom keeps this tray for the guests. I’m going to be the guest today. Maybe I’ll make tea.

I turn around to see my brother, Abdullah. He did not ring the doorbell, as expected. He is already in the kitchen doorway with my paratha rolls. I take them from him, trying to avoid eye contact. I can feel his eyes and an innocent smile plastered on his face. I turn my back to him and become a tall wall between him and my food. He is 6’2. With the weight of his hungry eyes on my back, I forget about the tea.

Typically, when my brother has joined my midnight food excursions, I’ve either lost my appetite or given into my brother’s interrogations, “Kaisa hai roll, garam hai? Tmhare
liye taaza banwa kar laya hun.” He never brings anything for himself. Instead, he stares at my food until I feel bad enough to give him half. Then he pretends to be surprised! “Arey tmne mere liye bhe bacha dia!” as he still stares at my plate.

I want this time for things to be different. I’m starving.

I salivate just thinking about the tikka-flavoured, crispy pieces of chicken, tightly wrapped in a hot crispy paratha. My biggest problem is deciding which chutney I will dip my roll in. There’s Imli chutney, dark brown in color with a blast of sweet, and tangy flavor. The other is hari chutney. It’s green and made of mint, lemon, and cumin seeds. I imagine dipping the roll in both and seeing the blast of flavours that it would bring.

My hands fumble as I put together the food on the tray and worry about finding a quiet spot. My brother follows me like a death angel.

He sits on the floor across from where I am seated. I am a few bites in when he starts to tell a story. Only he knew what he was talking about. I am completely disengaged,
hypnotized by the paratha roll in my hand.

Tonight is different. It has been decided by the divine! And my hunger pangs.

I look up and pretend to be interested in his story, but I don’t smile. I keep chewing the hot, yummy paratha roll as I stare down my brother. I see hope in his eyes. A smile
starts to spread across his face as he struggles to pretend he doesn’t care about my food.

I look at the last big morsel of paratha roll in my hand. I hold it so he can take a good look at it. I open the roll to fix the onion and chicken then I slowly refold it. I take the morsel and dip it in the last remnants of the chutneys. I have to scoop up all the remaining chutney from both the bowls and also make sure it doesn’t drip off.

While I try to balance the perfect bite, I feel my brother edging closer to me. He is also speaking louder than before. “Yeah and then the sister gave the food to her younger hungry brother because he didn’t have his own.”

I meet his gaze. “Well, the brother should’ve gotten his own food.” And stuff the last bit of roll into my mouth. I smack my lips as loudly as I can. I savour the last of my paratha
roll and the disappointment on my brother’s face.