Nostalgia on a Thursday Morning: Me, Brother & Our Tiffin Box
It’s 3 am and I am sitting here in my shabby room in Delhi trying to put together an SKU, flipping through folders, eyes glued to the system. I don’t have an air conditioner in my room and the humidity has turned my skin into a human sticky note pad. I guess it’s fair enough that I am starting to miss home.
As I sit here under the buzzing ceiling fan, I can only think of my childhood days when my only worry was tiffin and playtime, not these complicated grown up stuff! I wanna talk about good memories today.
I come from a town where the rain pours like there is no tomorrow and the sun shines like it’s getting into a sun tanning competition; rains when you leave home without an umbrella and gets sunny when you have a thick woolen sweater on. And growing up in this mystical place has its own undying charm.
When I was 5, I was put into nursery class (KG-I) and brother in KG-II at Cambridge School in Khayashat (Ukhrul), a school that was almost an hour walk from my house (Phungreitang), quite a distance for our little feet. We were living with our grandma and her youngest daughter, rest of the family being settled in Imphal.
Our morning rituals were simple, wake up to a glass of milk, eat lunch and get ready for school. Our only bone of contention with grandma was packing our tiffin. You see, she was quite old fashioned and never really cared for this box of meals. That, however, didn’t stop me and my brother from losing heart. We had a tiffin box for each so we would always carry it in our bag as if food was going to magically appear in it.
Sometimes grandma would take pity and pack some snacks. When this happen, me and brother would get really excited and sit under the cherry trees, gobble up our rare tiffin (the starting of Khayashat used to have a stretch of huge cherry trees till it sloped towards the school)! Then we would try to fill the empty boxes by picking the ripe cherries that had fallen on the ground. On days when we didn’t get tiffin, we would still stop under these cherry trees and fill our boxes with it. (I still cannot recollect what we ate when the cherries were off season!)
Some days when our dad or grandpa gave us a visit, they would drop us till the edge of the school and we would force them to buy us both a loaf which we would break into half and stuff into our box. This were our little joys. Then, we would go back to our usuals.
We were really tiny back then, the tiny duos. I remember wearing a heavy uniform skirt that almost touched my ankle. If there was one thing we hated, it was reaching school in time and reaching home in time.
Right after classes were over, we would run along bigger boys with our tiffin box in the hope of getting a taste of the seasonal berries, yellow and red raspberries. Other days, we would be chasing for a pod of wild elaichi (nanithei)- Amomum subulatum ROXB and wild fig too! I guess that’s the good thing about growing up in the hills, and especially in a school at the foothills.
Of course, we would come home to a sound lashing on the buttock since I never could bear the ones on the palm. Also, the constant pull in the ear, knuckles on the head and repetition of “I won’t do it again” was endless! Yet, the cycle continued the very next day.
When we were not getting punished for the misdeeds in school, we would pretend that our wooden stool was a car, and sometimes an airplane. Then I would follow my brother around, pretend to be his ride while he would exclaim to my grandma that he would buy her an airplane when he is old. Although he is far from getting her one, this still remains the fondest memory of my grandma.
My brother stayed with me for a year more. In my KG-II, we went rogue and bunked school because we were tired of homework (Can’t believe it myself!! Haha), but I will save that story for another day.
Starting schooling with my brother was a great start although detention and lashings became a routine. When either of us got detention, we would wait outside the class and play with the dust, digging the dry mud on the wall looking for something called ‘dust elephant’ (Whatever that was!). Although, now I doubt I would wait for my brother if he was even late for a flight.
Well, I guess getting a packed tiffin box really meant a lot to us back then because that is one incident we clearly recollect from our days in Cambridge School. Sometimes, I get so caught up with a lot of work and I almost forget my brother in the next room. But it’s photographic memories like these that reminds me how much he means to be.
People change, memories don’t.