Work Not, Eat Not

By Deline Tan

“Come…come…good fishes here. 1 kg is $3 only. Come…come…final piece!”

The dirty soggy mud and wetness clings to my feet. Wearing a cloak would be most suitable. The shouting and yelling of the fishmongers and meat sellers penetrated into my ears. Busy housewives hurriedly get their vegetables and I was looking for bitter gourd because it cleanses the blood and clears the system. I wasn’t necessarily a regular market-goer, but this morning I was determined to explode the market and find what I need which are cheap.

I walked to the vegetable seller and asked what I needed – bitter gourd, and he asked, “Sweet potatoes too?” Huh, why not? I ended up buying besides the bitter gourd, sweet potatoes, tapioca, brinjii, sweet corns and coconut. I went home eager to explore how to make what I bought an easy cook. With recipe at hand I meshed the sweet potatoes and tapioca and baked a decent sweet-potato-tapioca cake. I dipped the ready cakes into the white coconut and it was ready to be served.

I cooked the bitter gourd and sweet corn with pricey oil in the ordinary way of cooking. The rice was boiling hot and to my dismay it burned. There was a strong stench of charcoal-burned smell. My invited guests would have to go without white rice.

The doorbell rang and I jumped to the door. Mercy, Mag, and Roy thunderously announced their arrival. Bags of grocery were handed to me and they expect me to cook what they’ve bought. Fishhead, curry-powder, coconut, cabbage, potatoes, ladyfingers, tomatoes, and the likes – they expected me to cook curry-fish-head.

All hands were working out their special touch to make the curry-fish-head tastes good. Again I forgot, no rice. I’ve forgotten that the rice was burned and curry-fish-head was presented without rice to eat. It didn’t take long to cook the rice again, but when I check the rice-urn, again no rice – it had run out. So we spent our mealtime eating dishes without rice and everyone was as hungry as they first stepped into the house.

There was a knock at the door, and the beggar wanted food. We had nothing left and counted ourselves most fortunate that we have something to eat compared to the beggar even though we were still hungry.

“May I come in?” the beggar asked.

“Come in please.” I said. “Why are you begging in the streets?” I asked.

“I got kicked out of my job five years ago, and ever since I’ve been begging.”

“Err…I suppose you can always wash my house if you want to.”

Roy looked straight into the eyes of the beggar and said, “See, you are given a decent job to do.”

The beggar looked a little confused and said, “But I came here for food, not work.”

“If you want to eat, you need to work.” Roy added.

“I…I…thank you.” And he left.

“Imagine why this beggar is begging. When there is work presented to him, he rather starves than work.” Roy said disgustingly.

“This is the reason why he is a beggar. Many people rather beg than find a decent job.” Mag added.

“What is the morale of the story here?” I asked.

“Well, the saying goes, work not, eat not.” Mercy chipped in.

“To earn a honest living, we must be hardworking and give our best. Anything done haphazardly is like a curse. There is no reward.” Mag continued.

“Well…let’s get going and clean the house, and perhaps after that we may go for a movie.”

I directed them what to do with the cleaning, and I took the poster in my room and placed it in the kitchen door with the words, “Work Not, Eat Not. With Every Sweat, It Pays Off.”

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