It is with a great deal of shame I admit that as a child I was very stubborn and plain difficult, always demanding something or the other and, when refused, resorting to screaming and yelling.
Somewhere along the line I discovered that if I refused to take meals when my demands were not met, mother felt distressed and tried to fulfill my demands.
So the declaration, "I don't want to eat", had become my most potent weapon. The reasoning was simple: If I went without food, mother would be moved by sympathy and give in to my demands.
The weapon, initially, worked; Ma would cajole me and plead with me to eat. Assured that my ploy was working, I, of course, would stick to my stand: Accept my demand, else I am not going to eat. Ma would, finally, give in.
Over a period of time, however, the weapon began to misfire!Ma began to adopt an attitude for which I had not bargained. "Don't eat if you don't want to," she would say, "perhaps you are not hungry now". That was untrue; my stomach had already started grumbling. "I am keeping the food on the table; you may eat when you feel hungry," Ma would say.
You can well imagine my condition: My best plan had failed, and on top of that I couldn't have my food; after all that showdown I couldn't very well go and eat without loss of face! My insides gnawed, but there was no other alternative other than to put up a brave face and go to bed.
"The food is here on the table," Ma would remind.
Late into the night - well, actually, late into the night for a child would have meant 10pm at best - my hunger would get the better of me. Quietly slipping out of the bed I would make my way to the kitchen and the food would disappear in a jiffy. I would carefully replace the cover over the plate and sneak back to the bed.
In the morning there would be inquiries about the missing food.
"Did you get up in the night and eat your food?" mother would ask.
"Of course, not!" I would say making sure my face was turned away from her.
"Then, the rats must have eaten it," mother would conclude.
"Or, it could have been the cat," father would suggest.
"Yes, quite possible. But whether a rat or a cat, it was certainly a very clever thief! It licked the plate clean and even replaced the cover after eating. How could it have done that? Must be a very clever rat, or cat! We ought to set a trap." This was mother. I couldn't say for sure whether Ma was genuinely perplexed, or she had seen through my game and was pulling my leg.
Well, I had to remain quiet and play along. There were many occasions after that when the rat or the cat ate the food. But mother did not take any precautions to prevent the theft; the food continued to be kept on the table, it continued to disappear, and no traps were ever set!