Metro Éireann/Kenan Institute For Ethics Writing Competition: The Winners
2016-11-15 11:51:13 -
Together we achieve more, by Seunfunmi Solanke

Special commendation goes to this entry in the 14-17 category from a young writer in Slane, Co Meath, a heartwarming tale of co-operation across cultures

Neither Nadia, Temi nor Nitya could understand what they or their parents had done to warrant this extent of abuse. “Go back to your own countries and stop stealing our jobs,” one of them said. “Yeah and stop stinking the place with your mank Indian food and cursing us with your African voodoo.” The two boys laughed to themselves and shot menacing glances at the girls and their mums. They couldn’t understand why they were always the target, or what made them so different from all the other families. Their young eyes were silently questioning their mothers. As if being different wasn’t enough, this was just the icing on the cake.

Temi was Nigerian. She was born in Ireland and had lived in Dublin for all her life. She had two brothers, Dami and Tobi. Her family originally started off in Mosney when they first arrived in Ireland. The process was tough but they eventually got their citizenship. Her mum Shola was a paediatrician at a children’s hospital.

Nadia moved to Ireland from Poland when she was three years old. It took her a while to get used to English as Polish was her first language. She was an only child and her parents ran the local Polish shop. Over the past few years, they had suffered numerous break-ins but that didn’t stop them and the shop kept thriving.

Tara lived here all her life, with her mum Susan, brother Sean and sister Chloe. Her dad was killed in a road accident just after her birth and she almost lost her mum due to very aggressive stage-three breast cancer, though her mum fought the battle and survived. Her mum was a chef and owned a culinary school where she taught weekly cooking classes for people of all ages.
Nitya’s family moved from India before she was born. Her mum Rita and sister Jaya were the only two to come; they had to leave her dad behind due to visa problems. He was still working to earn more money for when he would finally come to join them. Both her parents were doctors and her mum had gotten a job as a consultant but still ran a small part-time catering company and was well known for her mouth-watering curry dishes.

As Tara and her mum approached the scene, her mum quickly took hold of the situation. 
“Hey you! Shane and Michael, I know your mums and I don’t think they would be too happy if they found out this is what you do in your spare time,” she said. 
The boys quickly suspended their laughter and turned to see who was talking. Susan crossed her arms and had a very disapproving look on her face. Then as if the boys only became aware of their surroundings, they noticed the many unhappy faces from onlooking parents. Without a word, they quickly fled the school gates.
“I hope they didn’t bother you too much.” Susan turned to the three mums and sympathetically smiled.
“Yes. do not worry, it happens more often than you think.” replied Shola. 
“We are almost accustomed to it,” piped in Rita, she then threw her head back and laughed. “Although we shouldn’t be.” 
Nitya was perplexed as to why her mother would be laughing. She immediately looked at the other three girls and they all held the same flummoxed expression on their faces. 
As the four mums continued to chat above their heads, the girls huddled together to talk about what just happened. 
“Well if you ask me those two boys were very rude,” Temi blurted out. The other girls didn’t say anything instead they nodded and murmured in agreement. After a bit of chatter, their mums called on them and each went their separate ways home.

The parents committee were adding the finishing touches to their annual auction night. People were to donate foods and services based on their profession, such as a carpenter offering someone an hour to help in their house commensurate to the auctioned value. This year the school was raising money on behalf of the Crumlin children’s hospital. 
Shola, Rita, Susan and Tasha were all sitting together, and Susan leaned in to whisper to the ladies. 
“Our girls are best friends and I don’t think it would do us any harm to become closer too.” 
“Beni [‘yes’ in the Yoruba language], just what I was thinking!” exclaimed Shola.
“Excuse me, ladies at the back, would you please mind keeping it down or stop talking altogether as we are entering a crucial part of the meeting.” 
All the other parents turned around to see who the chairperson was talking to and it was quite an embarrassing moment. 
“Okay, after the meeting,” said Tasha.
The meeting seemed to drag longer than necessary, but when it finished, all the other parents were relieved to rush out. The four mums gathered around Susan’s car to listen to what she had to say. Like mother, like daughter, they say, and this was exactly the case. Susan and Shola were outspoken like their daughters, and Tasha and Rita quiet and demure. 
“I own a culinary school. We could cook traditional dishes from each of our countries and not sell but just ask for donations!” Susan was almost bursting with excitement at this point. 
“I have a part-time catering company and I have a good knowledge of this business,” Rita chipped in. “And I have links with people that decorate and I can ask them to help set up and decorate the stall.” 
By this time all the parents had left the school parking lot. The mums quickly exchanged numbers and agreed to talk more later.

In class the next day, Ms Bourne announced the auction night and also sent everyone home with notes to their parents. They had one week to prepare for the big night, and everyone looked forward to it. 
Nitya’s mum was waiting at the gate for her. She was more chatty than usual, her eyes were bright and she was dressed in a beautiful red and gold kurti, an Indian dress. 
This is strange, Nitya thought to herself. Rita never dressed up like this to pick her up. In fact, if her mum wasn’t dressed in a suit with her doctor’s coat, she was in gym clothes. 
“Hello Choti, how was your day?” 
Choti was a nickname Nitya’s parents gave her from birth and it ended up being used more than her first name at home. 
“It was fine mum; I got a letter to give to you about the auction night.” 
“Very well, I will look at it at home.” 
On the way, Rita got Nitya ice cream, and Nitya knew that there was something definitely going on. Her mum never bought food out. She would always say: “Why pay more when you can make it yourself at home and buy it at Tesco for better value?”
Nitya was in her room about to start her homework when her mum called her and her sister Jaya downstairs. They both sat at the table and her mum gushed out: “Your father has gotten a visa; he will join us next month!”
Jaya screamed in disbelief and Nitya’s ears rang. She couldn’t believe it; she had waited so long for her dad, each moment he wasn’t with them she missed him even more. The three ladies went to bed that night with a smile on their faces.

It was the day before the event and the cooking would begin that afternoon. All four mums had taken a few days off work to prepare for the night. As soon as you entered the building – dubbed ‘Susan’s Kitchen’ for the occasion – the aromatic blend of spices and sauces hit you, and it only grew stronger as you moved closer to the kitchen. It was flooded with vibrant colours and foods of all sorts. And the smells were just as amazing. 
The air was infused with a blend of sweet and savoury dishes. There was such a variety of foods and every dish looked mouth-watering. Shola was cooking jollof rice, a risotto style rice cooked in tomato and pepper sauce, plus fried plantains with gizzard and puff puff, a snack in the shape of balls similar to doughnuts. Rita was making tikka masala with pilau rice, samosas and gulab jamun, a sweet desert made with fried milk. Tasha was making pierogi, which are Polish dumplings; bigos, a dish with sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, meats and sausages, onions, mushrooms and prunes; and croissant cookies filled with jam. Susan was making a stew with beef and lots of vegetables and potatoes, as well as homemade soda bread and country apple cake. 
The ladies were very satisfied with their hard work and all the foods tasted just as good as they looked. They were absolutely exhausted after that hard day’s work so they headed home for a well deserved night’s sleep and to prepare for the next day.

The night had finally arrived. The school closed early to allow the parents to set up the hall. Some people had brought their crafts to sell so there were stalls with woodworks, knitting, pottery and plenty more. There was also a table with gifts for a draw that was going to be at the end of the night. There were nicely decorated round tables around the hall so people could sit, eat and enjoy themselves. 
The auction didn’t start till seven so everyone had plenty of time to go home to dress and come back. Susan was dressed in a beautiful blue and white silk dress that had sequins going around the hem line at the bottom. Shola wore Yoruba attire, a knee-length red lace dress with long sleeves and a peplum in the middle complimented with colourful woven aso oke as head gear. Rita was dressed in a purple and orange silk sari that had gold embellishments dotted around it, and finally Tasha was dressed in a long navy dress with diamond jewels on the neckline. All of them looked spectacular and very elegant. The students had to dress in their uniform which consisted of a plain grey pleated skirt, a white shirt and socks, red jumper, black tie and shoes. Each of them looked neat and very well mannered. 
The students were in charge of handing out programmes for the night and directing people to their seats. Temi, Nadia, Tara and Nitya were so proud of their mums and made an effort to let their peers know who their mums were. “She’s the one who cooked all the Indian food and is wearing that beautiful purple and orange Sari,” Nitya would say to anyone who asked. 
The programme started right on time and people walked around to each stall and made an effort to taste every single sample at the food stall. The foods were going out quick and that was a sign that everyone enjoyed them. The star sale of the night was a first edition of Seamus Heaney’s poetry collection. Twelve people battled over it but in the end it was sold to an elderly couple for a hefty price.
The atmosphere in the hall was jubilant and lively and everyone had smiles on their faces. “Okay everybody,” said the MC. “It’s time to see how much we have raised.” 
The hall went quiet and everyone seemed excited as the MC prepared the announcement. 
“We raised €3,000!” 
A thunderous round of applause sounded out across the room. 
“The turnout was tremendous and we really appreciate everyone. Thank you very much!”
Tasha smiled at the other three, saying: “Together we achieve more.” 
The four mums began to pack, when suddenly Nitya ran to her mum and was stumbling over her words.
“Papa… at the door.” 
Rita was about to speak up when she look up and saw a man dressed in a neat, well cut blue suit, holding flowers. 
“Anjeet,” she whispered under her voice as she began to run towards him.
TAGS : seunfunmi solanke Together we achieve more writing competition Ireland Co Meath The Kenan Institute for Ethics
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