Naeem entered the chillier, grabbed a packet of chicken, and brought it to the breading table where he could prepare the chicken according to the procedure before frying it. It had been a busy day at the fast food restaurant where Naeem works. After taking the required amount of chicken from the chillier, he stepped out and closed the door behind him. Then he walked to the washing area to collect washed frying grills. He looked towards the restaurant lobby that was almost empty by then and only few cars came to the drive through for previous half an hour. ‘it was a busy day but now it is turning into dead, perhaps we will not be getting enough customers before dinner time so I shall be careful about the amount of product’, he was talking to himself while unpacking the chicken and dropping into the breading flour.
Restaurant was very quiet, other colleagues of Naeem were busy in doing their cleaning job, and manager went to the office to complete her paper work of the day. Busy days somehow end up with dead evenings they are less tiring as no quickness required to perform the job but time does not pass, it crawls instead. Naeem’s hands were in the flour playing with the chicken in it to bread the chicken with right amount of coating. However, his brain was somewhere else he was thinking about good old days while his brain traveled all the way back to his native village, near Mian Channu in Pakistan, about 6400 Kilometers away from where he was standing that evening.
In last 5 years since he came to UK a lot of things changed even his dreams that he brought with him while coming here like many others who leave their home, their city, and even their country to achieve their dreams earn lots of money so no desire remain un-met. Naeem also did the same, left his village with fertile fields full of crops according to the season and moved to a new country that has strange and cold winds, things were very different in this new place but he had expectations to attain everything here what he was unable to attain back home.
Naeem’s hands were busy in preparing chicken and putting them on the frying grill according to the piece of chicken, while his brain was traveling in time. He recalled how he got married to get the UK visa. There are many decisions in life that we take under the pressure it can be any kind of pressure but we never realize that, the negative aspects of such decisions are always ignored because the charm of gain out of such move is always very attractive. Naeem also made such decision – to get married and start a new life in a place, which is far away from his hometown, in terms of both distance and development.
Naeem settled the breaded chicken on the frying girl and shouted, “how many heads you want Flora?” “Hmm I need four… In fact two,
Hang on drop four and you can go on your break,” replied Flora the restaurant general manager and the shift runner of the evening. Naeem still in the valley of his memories lifted the trays and placed them in the fryer one by one dropped all the chicken in the boiling oil of the fryer and locked the lid. ‘what a boring evening, anyhow what’s the big deal no matter store is busy or not I have to cook stuff continuously. But still what a boring evening’, Naeem was talking to himself while approaching to the packing section of the store. ‘Talking to your own self han! Isnt it fun Naeem Bhai‘ It was Arsalan a student from Pakistan and a part time worker at the store. ‘Yes bro, I guess life is now all about me, myself, and I. left my friends and family for the dreams I saw with open eyes now same open eyes are showing the real face of life’ Naeem replied. Arsalan realised the situation and tried to cheer his workmate, ‘have you settled down to the new house need any help with shifting? Do let me know after all I have to utilise the fat gained from Lahori food’. ‘So nice of you’, Naeem replied with a smile. ‘You want burger, my own style custom made… purpose built. Don’t you like to avail the opportunity of having best burger engineer on shift’ Arsalan asked cheerfully. Naeem smiled again and shook his head, ‘No mate I am fine with the chicken made by the best chicken cooking scientist around’. That line caused laughter of both of them but it was shallow a laughter nothing more than filling the space that opportunity provided.
Naeem collected his staff meal and made his way to staff room with a brain that was again peeping through the windows of memories. He took his first bite and that remind all of his friends of childhood, the time he spent with them before he flew for this new country. ‘Silly fellows must be thinking that I am enjoying my life just like I claimed out of hopes about this place’ he told himself. The words of his best friend Ashraf haunted him again as they always do, ‘Nimay! You will be very happy there and I pray that you get all of whatever you want but remember it will not be easy, you are about to take sip from a very bitter drink. The bitterness can spoil your taste completely now it will be your bravery how you handle it’.
In the half way to finish his food he took a deep breath and released the air out while saying, ‘that idiot was absolutely right I still feel the bitterness of the sip I took 5 years ago’. He recalled his first reality check – argument with his mother in law that caused him to be expelled from her house and how he spent years in Manchester chasing his dreams with the crawling speed because it was survival most important thing then.
He finished his food emptied the tray in rubbish bin and came back to cooking area recalling his comeback to the city almost a year ago and the patch-up with his Mother in law and new beginning of married life after meeting his wife after years. He checked the fryer it was empty as someone has transfered the chicken to the packing area, store was getting busy now and he started breading and frying product according to the instructions on his screen. His mind was still thinking about the expectations he created again with the reunion. However, life is never a straight path it becomes messed up when one wrong turn you take and Naeem took many.
He recalled all the taunts he heard from his in laws but tried his best to avoid the worst but he was human after all one day he took the step that was the only option left for him. ‘There is limit to everything and I did right what I did by leaving that house this time I am not alone my better half is there to take half of the burden of planning about how to live life’, he tried to satisfy himself.
He had fight with his mother in law and left home again and this tines for good but this time his wife stood by Him in decision of leaving house spent nights in the car unless new house was arranged.
‘Last one month was tough they might be missing us by now at least my sisters in law they are nice unlike their mother’, Naeem spoke to himself. ‘Naeem bhai zinger gone I need more NOW big order is there at drive through’ shouting voice of Arsalan disturbed Naeem’s memories rewind. He opened the packet of zinger dropped chicken fillets in zinger breading flour and start breading them.
The car ordered eight zinger burgers was at the pickup window now to collect their order. Eve, the drive through cashier approached the window to inform them that they have to wait in the parking are as zingers are being cooked. ‘That’s £40 and 90 pence please’ Eve informed the girls in the car with a wide smile. ‘Can we, I mean I see Naeem. I am his sister… sister in law’ the girl at driving seat announced. ‘Oh let me call him’ Eve replied and walked to the cocking area and raised her voice, ‘Naeem your sister is at the window want to see you’, ‘and spoiling my drive through timer’ she murmured to herself. Naeem out of surprise asked, ‘my sister… how come?’ he added, ‘she lives in Pakistan Eve’. ‘It’s your sister in law then’, Eve replied with annoyed tone.
This information surprised Naeem but this time presently, he wiped his hands and grinned at eve, ‘let’s go, where is she?’. Naeem was happy because after a whole month since he left home – his in laws home, someone came to see him – her sister in law whom he was thinking about a while ago. He leaned out of window, smiling, with the expectation to hear, ‘how are you brother and how is our sister? Are you both fine? and have settle down at new place?’. The girl at driving seat turned to him, ‘Aslam o Alikum, Naeem Bhai can you get us some discount here please?’ ‘Wa Alikum Salam, you all right? Yeah why not’ Naeem replied with shattered expectations and weak smile. ‘Flora, give them discount it’s my family‘, Naeem confirmed to Manager. ‘okay I have to get back to work see you later’ Naeem showed courtesy and started to walk towards his breading table Arsalan stepped forward to see him but Naeem ignored Arsalan while walking his head down. Naeem started to bread zingers to put them in the boiling oil of fryer along with the expectations he had from the human around him.