When you eat at an expensive restaurant, do you think of the poor?

Published: December 20, 2013

He asked for the bill before our food had even arrived. We all felt thoroughly confused as to what he planned to do with us that night.

A few days ago, a friend of mine got a job at a university and to celebrate the occasion, we decided to go out for dinner. Of course, it was going to be his treat. After a long debate over what to eat and where to go, we finally decided to have a buffet dinner at a restaurant close by. We decided the date and time and extended the invite to other friends as well.

There were going to be seven of us. I lived in a hostel with another friend and so we decided to go together. We reached the venue at 9pm. However, at the entrance we were told that there was no buffet that day since the lawn was closed due to the dengue epidemic.

Since we were already there and changing the venue at the last minute would have been tiresome, we decided to eat inside and order a la carte. All of us went through the menu and ordered what we wanted to eat. We knew that it would take about 30 minutes for our food to come, so we sat back and began to chat among one another.

But our friend, the one who was treating us, seemed to have other plans.

When the waiter had taken down all our orders, he asked him to bring the bill in advance. The waiter looked flabbergasted at his request and all of us looked at each other in confusion as well.

What was he thinking?

After all, it was normal for the bill to be paid after the meal. But our friend insisted and so the poor waiter brought the bill. It was about Rs 3, 500 (around US$30). We knew he would not be worried since he had gotten quite a lucrative job. While we were still trying to understand his actions, he got up and rushed to the entrance of the restaurant. At the door, he jerked his head and motioned for us to follow him.

Looking at the floor in sheer bewilderment and embarrassment, we scuttled to the door and left the restaurant, leaving the waiter and all other customers gaping at us in astonishment.

As we walked out, we struggled to find a reason for our friend’s peculiar behaviour. One friend suggested that perhaps the bill was too much and he wanted to treat us at a less expensive place. Another one thought that he had left his wallet at home and had been unable to foot the bill.

Our minds churning out different theories, we tried to talk to him but he was pacing ahead of us. Hesitantly, we asked him what had happened. When he did not reply, we even put our theories before him. But he remained silent.

By now we were getting annoyed and angry.

What was this all about?

Was he trying to insult us?

We warned him that we would completely boycott him socially if he did not come out with what was going on but he remained unmoved.

After walking approximately half a kilometer with us tagging along, he entered a dark alley. We looked at each other with some suspicion and a lot of trepidation.

What was he planning? Was he into some criminal activities? Was he doing something immoral here?

These thoughts were running through all our heads as he walked into the alley, and I am sure anyone would have had these thoughts if they were in the same situation. What was worse was that it was a dark night, there were no lights around and we seemed to be in a very desolate place.

We figured that we had to find out what was going on and we could not leave him alone. So we followed him, and as we reached the corner, we saw a light – probably a candle or a lantern – burning at some distance and some human silhouettes became apparent to us.

Who were they?

Were they children kidnapped by the criminals that our friend was working for?

Were they children used for begging and illegal organ transplants?

All sorts of ominous thoughts went through our minds as we moved further into the alley. We could now see faces under the light.

There was an elderly woman with a visibly ill man – probably her husband – lying on the floor. Further away, there was an infant without any clothes and an ultra-thin teenage girl, obviously malnourished.

As we approached, we heard them telling our friend that they had eaten nothing that day and that the infant was unable to sleep due to hunger.

We looked on as our friend took out his wallet, gave the woman Rs3,500 and left.

We looked at each other but instead of confusion and fear, this time our expressions were of shame and guilt. Our friend’s actions at the restaurant had spurred such evil thoughts in our heads; now we just felt remorse.

On the way back, we were all quiet. Our friend offered to treat us at a less expensive restaurant on the way. But we could not. We were not hungry anymore.

We walked back to our hostel and it was almost mid-night when we reached. We turned in without saying a word but I could not sleep that night.

I believe that instead of eating something very expensive, one can satiate their hunger with something less expensive and save money. I try to do this almost every day, but the money I ‘save’ this way remains in my own pocket. I had never thought of giving the money to someone else; someone who cannot afford a simple meal, not even once a day.

I look back at that night fondly and think of it as the best dinner of my life because it taught me compassion and love for my fellow beings. And every time I remember it, I thank my friend for teaching me this valuable lesson.

Muhammad Israr

Muhammad Israr

Having a PhD from the University of the Punjab, he is currently working on areas of human genetics and forensic DNA identification. He blogs at www.afficer.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    The moral behind the story was good……….but the packaging needed more work.Recommend

  • Ovais

    Please post this on the SWOT group on facebookRecommend

  • Farhan

    This article seems to want to take the reader down a guilt trip for spending money on themselves.

    The restaurant that charged 3,500 was also a place from where poor people can get employment. The waiter who served you was also not a rich person.

    Businesses like restaurants and shaadi lawns, although built for opulence and spending provide jobs and incomes, and hence are a great source of transferring wealth from higher to lower income classes.Recommend

  • Aanish

    This is rather worthy and motivating …Recommend

  • Proletarian

    Your friend is a truly noble man.Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Good Ones! Very touching.
    …IndianRecommend

  • hajirah

    I actually give the credit to this friend’s parents. Clearly, they have taught him about humanity and our responsibility to take care of it.Recommend

  • Danish

    Sane voice, Noted. Shukria!Recommend

  • Ανδριάς χαν

    Great article with great lesson.Recommend

  • Nigger

    socially boycott him lol so cute :'( made me cryRecommend

  • Asif

    Why only think of the poor when you eat? Do you ever thing about them when you sleep on a comfortable bed under a fan? AC? Heater? When you take a shower? When you wear clean clothes? When you wear comfortable shoe? When you sit in your car?

    Thinking about the poor does not mean that you don’t spend you halal earned money on yourself and your family. It is considered a sunnah when you spend money on your family and kids. ALLAH does not like people who have money and don’t spend.

    Help poor people but don’t stop spending on yourself.Recommend

  • Arooj Ahmed

    A job well done by your friend.
    Having a dinner at an expensive restaurant if you can afford and after fulfilling one’s responsibilities towards one’s fellow beings is an acceptable thing for me, though.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Congrats on having a good friend. Don’t loose him.Recommend

  • Ahsaan Bhatti

    Awesome….. I have learnt the same lesson and will try to follow it throughout my life! Thanks for this great Sharing….Recommend

  • MHZ

    Wow!
    That was something unexpected..
    I can tell you I respect your friend without knowing him.Recommend

  • Tanveer Khadim

    One of the most inspiring articles that I have read on ET.Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Your friend is a true Human Being and we need these kind of people to guide us not like billionaire ZARDARI, NAWAZ, IMRAN or any of the feudal lanlords…….Recommend

  • Critical

    As a spender,I get this remark everytime… The money u spend giving a treat for 5 friends can be used to feed 50 people for 1 full day…..

    I vehemently disagree it…For a country to be successful and everyone to be happy,the money needs to be circulated…For eg,if ur friend had spent 3,500 in that restaurant…Then he had helped a restaurant owner be in business…Since he’s in business,he spends rent to the owner of that shop and the owner of that land is benefitted,he pays salary to the waiters,cooks,cleaners etc… These people come from the poor sections of the society..This job enables them to feed their family and because he was able to feed them,they are not on the street….

    We can also tell the same for the chicken farmer who supplied the chicken and the distributor who brought it all over and sold to the owner

    In short,the more we spend,the more we contribute to the society… That woman might have fed her family for a month or two with that money but had her husband been employed,she would never have to look for others to survive…..

    If everyone stopped spending and being frugal and instead give to charity… They would notice that the poor people have in fact increased and some lazy slobs stop working and are waiting for handouts….I know this because CM of tamilnadu decided to give free food for 100 people everyday in selected temples,mosques and churches… A temple was just opposite to my school..At around 12pm,I used to see a huge crowd waiting for the food and most of the ones who were waiting werent that poor… They just wanted free food thats it…

    Give a man a fish he wont be hungry for a day,teach him to fish,he will never be hungry ever…Recommend

  • Ali S

    Sure, give 3,500 Rs to Chhipa or Saylani’s ‘dastarkhaan’ instead of spending it on a lavish feast and it’s money well spent. But never give money to beggars – you aren’t helping them, you are promoting their miserable plight.Recommend

  • Ali Faraz Haque

    And what if there are not many fish in the sea, what if the fish he catches can not feed his family, what if the thing he catches thinking that it is a fish actually is a yolk that enslaves him with underpaid vages? My dear, the man did a noble job, appreciate him for that. What you said IS true but what the man did is commendable and must be appreciated for that.Recommend

  • reema arshad

    thought provoking indeed!!!
    very nyc take on a vry basic issue!Recommend

  • Shaq

    In an ideal world alot of what u said about circulating the money is true. However, if you look at the reality, it’s really not. We all know that expensive restaurants with overpriced food would not be paying their staff large salaries, hence only a portion would go in ‘circulation’ and most in the restaurant owners pocket. Which eventually leads to widening of the class differences with the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. Recommend

  • Ali Rizvi

    It brought tears over reading it, It made me look at myself and my behaviors. Please thank your friend, a casual thank and slam not telling from where. This action needs no praise it was an act done unconditionally. You wrote fearlessly, I must appreciate that and thank you for sharing.Recommend

  • AA

    I have a question. I basically want opinions on this.

    Lets say that the money that i earn is Legal.

    Secondly, i pay the Tax for that money.

    Who is the author r anyone to tell me what to do with my money? Why should i spend it on anyone else? I did what was required of me? Now i can waste it or invest it or do whatever with it.Recommend

  • Mansoor Ahmed Memon

    I never lend comments on site but after reading this article, i could not stop my self about sharing my views and about this. Simply heart touching and emotional story. We all should learn from it.Recommend

  • Satan

    I am a poor myself. This article is not for me.
    Please take me to a restaurant if you go.Recommend

  • AA

    100% AGREEDRecommend

  • Zahir

    We all love money and its ok, we work hard for it, but we can never buy happiness until we learn to share it !Recommend

  • Aisha Tariq

    Cant agree any more ……..awsum articleRecommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Well Mr Critical. What you say is absolutely true . These ‘big’ spending increases sales of ‘costly’ things like cashew nuts / china sets / heavy silk table clothes etc., After all there are laboureres working at the other end of these ‘costly’ things too. The more these ‘costly’ things sell, the more they are asked to produce, the more these laborers get work , the more their income increases and so on .. Well spotted. BTW U seem to be a South Indian as you mentioned CM of TN .Recommend

  • Ammar

    Can we just once say “Good job man” instead of writing such philosophical stories ?
    I don’t blame you actually. our society fabric is now so weak, we can’t even appreciate something good without being cynical. Try to be positive for a day !Recommend

  • Asad Durrani

    who ever thinks that the more we spend, the more we contribute to the society needs to go through these links

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-consumerism
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8
    http://www.globalissues.org/article/238/effects-of-consumerismRecommend

  • Nikki

    The reall Test for the rich when they ignore poor.In fact poor is poor becuase of their way of living and indeed rich is poor when they love show off.Mental poverty cannot be defined.You are equall responsible to make fun of the poor when you joined your friend at resturant Mr.Recommend

  • Critical

    U r right….But thats where the govt policies come into picture…Every society needs its own share of rich and poor people…U cannot say that noone is poor in USA …..
    But they protect the poor by the laws of minimum wages,SS benefits,fixed working hours per week,bonus pay,medical insurance borne by the company….
    A janitor in US can live in a house which has electricity and water supply,feed his family 3 times a week,send his kids to school and live peacefully… Something what is a dream for many middle class families…..

    We should urge the govt to make more labor friendly laws than trying to stifle these rich restaurant owners..If the restaurant business fails they will change their business to some other but the poor people who were employed will be left on the streetsRecommend

  • Critical

    FYI,I’m not cynical and what he did is really appreciable…..He has the best intentions in his heart and I hope he will continue to be good to lesser fortunate…..

    I told this because I’ve a friend who never likes to tip but he spends on charity…. I’m just talking about the different views… I’m just questioning his views not his intentions…..Recommend

  • Tabish Rehman

    I understand your theory and i agree but this is the very reason i like this incident even more because the majority thinks like you and they spend their money at expensive restaurants thinking they are helping circulate the money but interestingly they are only making that particular businessman rich. The salaries would be paid to the management irrespective of whether this guy ate there or not because people like you would still go and keep the business afloat and even then the name has not been mentioned but even if the business were to close down the employees would find alternate jobs based on their experiences and qualifications.

    The truth of the matter is man is greedy and selfish, our desires precede everything and everyone else. The only reason we provide clarifications is not to do something we don’t want to because we have already predetermined ourselves to be right and everyone else to be wrong.

    If the governments of the world did their jobs properly and everything in the system was perfect then what you are saying might have been correct but since that is not true, we have to consider alternative methods of helping people in whatever way we can.

    It is true that people take advantage of their situations but that is their concern not yours and plus you can always be more selective to whether the person whom you are helping does he even deserve your help or not.Recommend

  • AsifAmeer_AP

    Trickle down Economics huh..? What else did you learn from the Chicago boys? Did they tell you anything about Asset Collateralization and Collateralized Asset Price inflation to render the market pricing mechanism useless? Yeah.. I thought so too..Recommend

  • abhi

    This is mentioned by someone else also. Helping others is good but instead of spending the amount giving it all to charity is also not a very good Idea. In the case mentioned here, by not spending the money in restaurant you have deprived the waiter, cook and owner some part of their income. There should be balance between spend, saving and charity.Recommend

  • ptr

    When you write articles in English do you care about those who can’t understand it’Recommend

  • Syed Owais Mukhtar

    Ammar, I think we should all be open to see the other side of the mirror too. It was a good job, but it can be a “very good job”, space for improvement always remainsRecommend

  • Zoon Ahmed Khan

    Charity should be a personal matter not earning other people’s admiration.. Taking your friends out for a ‘treat’ and then all the drama. He perhaps shouldn’t have volunteered to treat his friends at all. I’m guessing that was not the only 3500 Rupees he was going to spend on dining out, then why was this deemed an appropriate setting for such a display of love for the less fortunate?Recommend

  • Saira

    All I can think about is that waiter, who must have gotten a tough time from his employer, having taken the order and then seeing the 7 of you taking off without letting him know of your intentions. That’s the only poor fellow I can sympathize with after reading this post!Recommend

  • eychAey

    YOLO! Enough said.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Seems a little too dramatic to be true.

    And if it is, then I’m sorry, but your friend’s actions were more patronizing than inspirational.

    He could’ve just treated you at a restaurant (maybe a slightly less expensive one) and then taken you to the poor family, and paid them the same amount as the food bill. That would’ve been a statement.

    Instead, he just guilt-tripped you out of a meal while establishing himself as more-charitable-than-thou. Sure, he did do a wonderful thing for the poor family, but the theatrics were just tastelessly showy.Recommend

  • HA

    Good article! but we all know we can’t feed or help all the needy people in the world!. If we have money and we are spending it on no matter what, its ours! we earned it and we have the right to do anything we want with it. People are needy for a reason, either they didn’t work hard enough or didn’t take studies seriously!Recommend

  • javeria

    look, if God has blessed you with wealth. its pretty much justified to spend a component of it on your own self. Obviously helping others out too is integral. But dragging your friends out of a restaurant into a dark alley and giving money to some poor chaps makes no sense. I mean obviously your story is true but making a show of it wasn’t really nice of your friend, even if he was trying to teach a lesson. we should all however never forget the poor and help them in whatever way we possibly can.Recommend