Anand lit the stove, threw a few handfuls of rice and lentils into the pot, and added water, salt, turmeric, and chili powder. In twenty minutes, it would form a bubbly stew. Once again, he wished hed been able to pick up a few vegetables. And that mango! If he hadnt dropped it, he could have cut each of them a slice to eat after dinner. He wanted to kick himself for being so clumsy.
The lamp in the corner flickered and the flame grew small. Anand could tell it was running out of oil. He reached for the bottle to refill it, then remembered that it was empty. Hed been supposed to buy some oil, too, on his way home, but the wind and the fog and the fear had driven it out of his mind.
The lamp wavered and went out. Now there were only the blue flames from the kerosene stove.
"Maybe I can help," the old man said. He rummaged in his bag and came up with the stub of a candle. It wasnt much, Anand thought as he lighted it, but at least it would last through dinner.
"Ive a couple of other things here that you may be able to use," the man said. He held up a small yellow squash and a handful of green beans, and Anand thankfully chopped them up and threw them into the pot. The room began to fill with a delicious smell. As though, Anand thought, hed put lots of expensive spices into the pot. They sat in the small golden circle of light thrown out by the candle stub, waiting for the lentils to cook. As they waited, the old man told them his story.
From The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Copyright © 2003 by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Millbrook Press.
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