If there is something in the world which is eternally enjoyable, irresistibly tempting, as well as deliciously edible, it is a crispy chicken burger.
At least, this is what Guddu believes with his heart and soul. Any day becomes the best day of his life when he is served a chicken burger coupled with a plateful of crunchy French fries, heavily seasoned with salt and pepper and best served hot straight out of the deep fryer.
And what makes it more tantalising and exciting for Guddu is to devour his favourite food with a glass of super-chilled cold drink, black or white, while a spoonful of chilli sauce or ketchup in tandem with a zesty mayonnaise spread inside the bun turns his much-loved burger into an out-of-this-world experience.
For a taste-conscious soul like him, a day started with relishing a tender morsel of a sliced chicken burger is always a day well-spent. In contrast, a day when he does not get a chance to inhale the delectable aroma of a burger being fried is a day all wasted.
From an early morning breakfast prepared at home to the late-night dinner ordered at a fast-food restaurant, all what Guddu wants to put on his plate is a chicken burger served with or without condiments. From an afternoon brunch devoured in the school cafeteria to the late-evening high-tea celebrated outside with friends and family, Guddu’s appetite is peculiarly restricted to gorging himself on a chicken fillet tucked inside a burger bun, and when the same food item is missing from the menu, he feels like a dying patient deprived of life-saving medicines.
“Mama, what are you making for today’s lunch?” Guddu asks his trademark question that everybody at home has had enough of listening to.
“Anything but chicken burger,” Mama replies honestly as she knows Guddu more than him.
“What’s wrong with chicken burger?” Guddu is unable to understand Mama’s logic behind skipping the most scrumptious food ever produced.
“This is just a repetition that makes your favourite food the most unpalatable, distasteful meal for others,” mama presents her logic that looks far more convincing and plausible than Guddu’s absurd craving to binge on the same food at every meal day in, day out.
“I think a chicken burger is something that should be eaten all the time, just like we drink water throughout the day and never feel satiated after drinking it time and time again,” he replies. Guddu’s blind love for chicken burger is as obvious as his inability to see a variety of other meal options available, offering both taste and nutrition and that too without making one fed up and sick of surviving on a single-food choice.
“Can’t you see beyond the chicken burger my son? How can you survive when your diet is restricted to merely a single food item?” Mama now seems to be losing her temper in quite the same way as Guddu is losing his point.
“Yes, I can. I only need my favourite chicken burger to get by on. With a continuous supply of chicken burgers, I can even live in a desolate forest forever. I have the appetite and stamina to eat it day after day and week after week, without any respite or break for any other food. To me, every day should be observed as a ‘Burger Day’ and every night must be celebrated as a ‘Burger Night’,” Guddu makes a tall claim in a fury without considering the terrible consequences of leading a ‘burger life’.
“Okay. Then get ready to survive on only chicken burgers from now on and whenever it is served, you will have to finish it completely without complaining or leaving any leftovers,” Mama concludes the argument angrily and decides to teach Guddu a much-needed lesson.
Without wasting a single second, Guddu accepts the ‘Great Burger Challenge’ that now has officially been kicked off as soon as he nods his head in affirmation.
Today is Sunday. Everybody is home and all family members are having lunch together. It is mutton pulao that everybody is eating with gusto. But Guddu is the only one eating chicken burger especially made for him.
‘Deliciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiious,’ exclaims Guddu at the top of his voice, devouring every bite with much delight and excitement.
“Will you go with us tonight to attend the engagement ceremony of Saleem bhai’s younger sister?” asks mama.
“Not at all. It would be quite a boring place. I would rather stay home to watch the cricket match,” replies Guddu.
“No problem. For dinner you may eat your chicken burger. I have already fried patties in large quantity and kept them in the deep freezer. You just need to heat it up in the microwave oven and make a burger yourself.”
“Oh, that’s great. Mama, I love you!” Guddu replies excitedly.
Heralding the dawn of the second day of the ‘Great Burger Challenge,’ the next morning welcomes him with another chicken burger elegantly placed on the plate and with all those condiments and sauces that help make a perfect chicken burger.
“What a wonderful start of the day it is,” says Guddu, with a sense of gratitude for his mother’s endless kindness and love.
The moment of gratitude strikes him again when he opens the lunchbox during the school lunch break and finds just another chicken burger, greeting him with its mouth-watering whiff and enticing, yummy appearance.
“Is it real or am I just having a wonderful dream?” Guddu fumbles for words this time, taking delight in every bite, overwhelmed by an irresistible smell of the melting cheese which is penetrating deep into the interior of the doughy bun, full of buttery pieces of crisp, white meat.
When Guddu comes back home from school, he finds another chicken burger being grilled in the kitchen for his lunch. Knowing that this would be the fifth consecutive burger he is now going to eat on the trot since yesterday afternoon, Guddu feels a bit hesitant for the moment, but decides to binge on as if feeding on the same food back-to-back makes no difference to him. After all, he has been gifted with a matchless ability to live in a desolate forest forever, provided that the deserted place is continually supplied with freshly-made chicken burgers.
Guddu picks up the burger, but with less enthusiasm and eagerness. He deliberately stretches his mouth to bite into it, bit by bit and realises how difficult is to keep eating the same food every day and night.
“Is it the same chicken burger I used to eat like a horse?” Guddu questions himself.
As soon as he gulps down half of the burger, he starts feeling nauseous. Trying hard to save his face, Guddu brings lots of cold water and pours it down the throat to avoid puking in front of others. It works for a while, but half of the mission is yet to be accomplished. Guddu is totally helpless now.
“Why have you stopped eating my son?” asks Mama.
“I am eating it mother. You don’t worry,” Guddu half-heartedly replies, trying to win the lost battle.
“Then what are you waiting for? Does the burger taste awful? If it does, then I can make a new, fresh burger for you. Should I?” Mama adds insult to injury.
Well, those who make tall claims soon end up eating their humble pie. Guddu is not uttering a single word and is morosely looking at the remaining chicken burger he can no longer finish and also thinking about the rest of the chicken burgers he was supposed to survive on.
“I am sorry, Mama. No doubt, there is more to the world than a mere crispy chicken burger,” admits Guddu, learning the lesson that he will never forget.
“Then what about today’s dinner, honey? A burger with cheese or without cheese?” asks mama.
“A dinner without burger please!” Guddu pleads with a sombre smile on his face and both of them start laughing.
Published in Dawn, Young World, June 15th, 2018