SURESH RAMPHUL

“If you really wanted to do something for the family during this confinement period,” said Vic’s mother, “at least you should have phoned. I’d have told you what to buy.”

“The supermarket was unusually crowded. People were buying in frenzy, grabbing things in a rush and putting them quickly in their baskets or caddies. I had no time to lose,” said Vic.

“I’m not blaming you, my son, your intentions were good but I’m only asking you what do you want me to do with the brinjals? Tomatoes, potatoes, aromatic herbs, I’ve no issue with them. But brinjals, it’s another matter. You know your father has imposed a ban on this vegetable. He can’t stop the itching on every part of his body when he eats them. So, it’s a loss of money. If I cook them, he’ll kick me out.”

It was almost a chaotic situation in the supermarket. People were buying as much as they could, probably fearing a lack of basic necessities. How do you explain to your mother that when you’re in a terrible hurry, you don’t have the time to choose what you’re buying?

“And who told you to buy chicken and fish?”

“What’s the trouble with them? They were in high demand, so I thought why shouldn’t I buy them too?”

“Our fridge is already full. Where do you want me to keep them?”

“I didn’t know this.”

“That’s why I’m saying you should have made a call. With some of the things you’ve bought, you’ve created more problems for me.”

“I was too much in a hurry. People were buying in order to stock and I did what others were doing, you see. I was in a state of panic.”

“You said the supermarket was overcrowded,” said the mother, “this means that there wasn’t the one-metre social distancing between individuals.”

Now that she was bringing up the matter, it occurred to Vic that people hadn’t respected the government’s guidelines. This is what happens when your mind is focused solely on rapid buying: you forget basic rules and principles, you buy more than necessary and you think for yourself first, others don’t matter. Whether there’ll be a shortage of products and others will suffer, it’s not your problem.

“The rice,” said the mother, “it’s not the brand we’re used to consuming. I’m told it takes more time to cook and it doesn’t go well with all curries. Your father will raise hell. Look at how much money you’ve lost for nothing.”

Mother was someone difficult to please, thought Vic.

“It’s good,” went on the mother, “that you’ve brought home six or seven packets of biscuits…”

Here was something mother had liked anyway, thought Vic.

“…but do you know that they won’t last long?”

“Okay, come on, tell me, what do you find wrong with them?”

“In two days’ time, they’ll all be unfit for consumption. This means we’ll have to consume them within two days. We’ll get saturated and the rest will have to be thrown away. You should have looked at the expiry date.”

Mother had a point. No use arguing with her. She was like a fisherman    once he gets hold of a fish, there’s no question of letting it go.

“I see that you’ve bought some masks.”

“Yes, mom, I remarked a long queue at the pharmacy on my way home. So, I joined in. It was only later that I learned people were going to buy masks,” said Vic.

“But where are the soaps and the sanitizers?”

He hadn’t forgotten them. He explained that by the time he reached the counter, these commodities were no longer available. Since there was no control on how much someone could buy, the people before him had bought by dozens. The mother said that at least he could have bought other things. Say someone is suffering from constipation, diarrhoea, or develops gastric problems or hypertension caused by the stress of confinement, do we have anything for him at home? Vic said that these things had hardly crossed his mind.

“Next time, buy useful, you’re not a kid anymore,” the mother said.

The remonstrating tone was like a cold shower.

Vic’s shopping adventure had been a failure. But however much he hated Covid-19, he realised that there were a few things it had taught him.