The tiffin box dilemma

Deepanwita Das

An educator’s life is full of experiences. I recall here two incidents that have compelled me to introduce and implement a breakfast schedule for students in my school.

As a working parent, I am always extra conscious about my children’s tiffin box. They must receive all the nutrition for their proper growth and my busy working schedule should not come in the way. I am fortunate that neither of my children is a fussy eater, so making sure that they have good food to eat was not very difficult.

At least that was what I thought until the day of the fancy dress programme in our school. We had a very affectionate ayah to take care of the kids. On D-day, while the mother teachers were checking the costumes and taking attendance back stage, the ayah was receiving the students from the parents at the entrance to the school. I arrived with my daughter. At the same time, another parent reached as well and greeted me. His daughter, Arohi, was in my daughter’s class. Arohi was excited to see my daughter and came forward to introduce her friend to her father. “Papa, meet Abha. Don’t you remember? I had told you!” Like an eager parent I waited to hear good things about my daughter. Instead what I heard was, “Abha, papa, who everyday begs me for tiffin during short break!” Oh …what a revelation in public!

The father was visibly embarrassed as well. I wished the earth would split to hide me, but I tried my best to act calm and unaffected.

The ayah was smart enough to assess the situation. “I know Abha, she is not of this kind,” she whispered to me. “Ma’am, please do not scold her for this.” My response was, “I know her. Don’t worry.”

The fanciful extravaganza got over. I collected Abha and on the way back home asked her, “Do you really beg for tiffin from Arohi every day?” Pat came the response, “Yes, every day.” Shocked, my motherly ego came into play, “But I always pack your box with your choice of tiffin!”

“What choice do you have mama! You always ask me to choose from chapati, idli, paratha, dosa and all boring stuff; you never allow me to have delicious items like Arohi brings – fryums, cream biscuits, Maggie, chips, wafers…which are so tasty! You know, her father is very rich. Every day, he purchases all new things from the market.” She expressed her secret desire. Indirectly, the message she wanted to give me was that we are not well off enough to afford all these alluring foods, like Arohi’s parents.

The second incident: This was narrated to me by one of the teachers handling nursery kids. Ours is a school in an industrial township. We have students whose parents are unskilled employees and even those whose parents are top executives of the industry.

On a particular morning, the teacher was amused when soon after the Home Room (circle time), little Mansu asked about the tiffin break. The teacher told Mansu that the break was some time away and that he could open his box and eat something if he felt like it. However, Mansu kept asking for the tiffin break.

When the bell rang after the first period, Mansu’s hands reached for his box, but his teacher told him it wasn’t as yet time for the tiffin break. Mansu’s behaviour aroused the teacher’s curiosity. Finally, the long-awaited bell rang. The teacher, from a distance, tried to figure out what Mansu had brought that day. She could spot a small rectangular off-white piece in the box and Mansu was trying his best with the fork to separate a small portion to nibble. The disappointment over his unsuccessful attempts was reflected on his face.

At last, he tried to bite a large piece off using his hands. And now the teacher saw that it was the popular, quick and easy two-minute Maggie noodles! Mansu wanted to experience the same joy and excitement he had seen on the faces of his friends eating Maggie. But, in vain. Mansu was in tears. He had persuaded his father to buy the item he saw on TV and insisted his mother pack it in his box. It was the first time that Mansu’s family had brought this food item home. The noodle cake was uncooked!

Mansu’s excitement of having brought this delicacy to school ended so pathetically that it moistened the eyes of the teacher.

These two incidents made me bring to the discussion table the idea that we had to implement a healthy breakfast schedule for the students of the pre-primary school. Today, fortunately, the situation has brightened up.

Breakfast schedule followed by the students:

Day Menu
Monday Sandwich/bread and jam/butter with fruits or nuts
Tuesday Paratha, bhujia/puri, subji with salad (veg/fruit)
Wednesday Upama/poha/semeiya/dhokla with fruit/nuts
Thursday Idli/dosa/dhokla/halwa with any fruit
Friday Sprouts/fruits and a slice of cake/biscuit
Saturday Children’s delight

The author has been in the field of education for 32 years. She loves to experiment, motivate and accept new challenges. She has a flair for creative writing and patronizes literary pursuits in the school as well as in the community. She can be reached at [email protected].

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