Life Stories

Let’s not be Mani Aunt, Say NO to Hoarding

"Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination"

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa

Many years ago, there was a lady in our neighborhood – let’s call her Mani Aunt. During those days, our country was going through political turmoil. The government frequently imposed curfews, and most grocery stores were closed. Long lines, empty shelves, high customer demand, uncertainties, and panic – that was part of our life.

That was one of those moments when we heard that the grocery store was running out of supplies. We all rushed to the store to buy staple items such as rice. Mani Aunt was the first one to reach, and she purchased five sacks of rice. One of our other neighbors was not that lucky. She arrived late and did not get her share of rice. She approached Mani Aunt, asking if she could buy some from her, to which Mani Aunt bluntly rejected. “What if there is no supply of rice next week? What if I need them in the future? What will my family eat?” she questioned.   

That was Mani Aunt. She could not understand that in such a crisis when she hoarded five sacks of rice, the other neighbor was left with nothing. Her fear and insecurity about the future made her so selfish that sharing looked like she was giving away something that might be valuable in the future.

Mani Aunt died many years ago. But, after two decades, she suddenly popped up in my mind. A week ago, I had entered a supermarket near me. It looked like a panic-zone with hundreds of ‘coronavirus hoarders.’ Seeing the panic in the supermarket, I, too, started collecting whatever I could. There was nothing left in the frozen section. I looked around and saw fresh unripe bananas.

“This will last for weeks. I will survive on bananas,” I thought and picked two dozens of unripe bananas, something I had never done in my life.  This afternoon, I noticed that my bananas are going bad. I now have two options – eat a lot of bananas (to hell with carbs) or throw them away (which I cannot do, food is precious)

While we are talking only about a dozen bananas in my home, I am wondering about those who hoarded so much food that will spoil or be wasted in no time. There is no way a single-family could consume that amount of food that some bought last week. I saw people taking gallons of milk, cartons of eggs, pounds of meat, dozen loaves of bread, pet supplies, among other things. I even wonder if they have a place to store them in their refrigerator. What will they do? Waste?

Yesterday, I went to the supermarket again looking for frozen food. The aisles of canned and frozen foods were still empty. I saw an old couple looking for frozen food. I must admit I was worried for him and his wife. It is public knowledge that people over age 65 and people with chronic illnesses are at the highest risk of dying if they catch the virus.

“You should not be out too often,” I felt like telling them, but I kept quiet. I am sure the older man knew that he should not be there. But did he have an option? Someone else hoarded so much frozen and canned foods from the supermarket that some of those who need it the most do not have them today.

We live in New York City, and as per the latest report, the virus is spreading quickly in the city.  I am still young and healthy. I would not like to catch the virus. I am doing my best by staying at home and avoiding any public gathering. But if my empty refrigerator pushes me to visit the supermarket, and I catch the virus, I will be cured (as per the health report). But my older neighbors might not get that chance. So, it is so important that I be mindful about it and try to protect those that are more vulnerable.

Friends, let’s spread the word. Tell everyone not to be Mani Aunt. We do not know what our future holds –  no one knows. But we cannot be safe by hoarding stuff (and there is no need to hoard). If our neighbor is falling, sooner or later, we will fall too. That’s how nature works. So, sharing is the key today. Let’s be mindful and show compassion.  

PC Credit: A photograph of an elderly man staring at empty shelves in a Sainsbury's store in Epsom has gone viral Credit: Mercury Press

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