Trrrrrriiiinnnnnnnggggg… the school bell rang, signalling in the lunch break. Raghu and Anirudh slipped out of the classroom before the class teacher allowed the children to leave. Unlike other children who would sit in or around the classroom and eat their lunch, these two would visit a different spot in the school each day.
Their classroom was in one of the older buildings of the school. It housed the 4th to 6th standard classes. Both of them were waiting to be promoted to the 7th standard – when they would move to the new building. Everything was so new and clean, the smell of fresh paint, new furniture and the classrooms even had cabinets for the children.
“Let’s go to the playground near the church,” Raghu said.
St. Johns’ English Medium School was one of the older schools in the locality. Three school buildings and two grounds around a small church formed the school.
Anirudh was Raghu’s best friend and they were always together during school. When one of them did not come to school, the other felt out of place. Their lunch time together was special because they could talk, crack jokes and make fun of others. The lunch break was forty-five minutes long, and the boys usually took an extra five minutes to get back to class.
They found a shaded spot on the ledge on the wall near the playground where there weren’t any other children. Though it was lunch time, there were kids who were still on the playground. Some playing catch-catch with a tennis ball, some cricket and some just walking around in small groups without purpose.
Raghu had his dabba with him. He wondered what his Amma had packed for him. It usually was a few idlis, or dosas, and sometimes a rice mix. He loved to eat rice and pickle, but she didn’t send it frequently enough. He opened the small steel box and saw four idlis.
“Oh no, Not idlis again”, he said aloud. He wondered what Anirudh had got for lunch today. He often got special lunch; sometimes fried rice, parathas, chole bature etc.
“Where’s your dabba?”, Raghu asked seeing that Anirudh was empty-handed.
“Mom could not send one today. Would you share yours with me?”
“No, we should not share food and should get our own dabbas”, Raghu said while turning to look towards the playground.
During lunch, while Raghu ate his idlis, Anirudh tried not to look at his dabba. He instead looked at a small group of children who were playing cricket on the far side of the ground. The boys then talked about the half-yearly school fair that was to be held in the coming weekend. It was something that all the kids looked forward to since they could come to the school with their parents and play games and eat from the many food stalls that would be setup. The school bell rang and they realized their lunch time was over.
As they walked back towards their classroom, Raghu wondered if he did the right thing by not sharing his food with Anirudh. Anirudh got his dabba most of the times, but he wouldn’t once or twice a month.
“Yes, it’s the right thing to do. That’s the only way he would get his dabba everyday”, he thought to himself and put his arm around Anirudhs’ shoulder.