Sunday, 18 August 2013

Tiffin Box

I’m an extremist, is what I’ve discovered after  travelling down the memory lane today and finding one peculiar incident which I had not thought of anytime after its occurrence . On being asked any questions about me, my mother has always said that I was a very naughty child.  However I really am not. Trust me, I never bullied anyone or otherwise. I always wanted to do something and ended up doing something else ,now that isn’t naughty. I still do not know moderate and which is why I end up doing something unplanned.

As a child, I had a lot of food tantrums. I did not eat any vegetable. All I wanted was fish. Owing to which I was very thin. I was almost convinced by my brother that I was an anorexic and was going to die soon. School recess hence was something that I never enjoyed because I never liked most of the food which my mom used to pack. I always left it half eaten. Every day in the evening my mom used to yell at me emptying the half-empty tiffin into the dust bin.

One fine day on my way to school, I, along with a few friends tricked my nanny with the view of troubling her and ran into an unusual lane. Seeing the nanny run behind us everybody increased their speed to extract more fun until I discovered none of my friends or my nanny behind me and saw myself standing in a strange lane. I did not panic.

I remembered the most irritating phase of my life- when I’d go out with my mother to meet our long lost relatives locating whom was a task my mother mastered at. FYI My mother used to introduce them to me saying, “Remember, we’d met XYZ  at ABC place”. Initially I used to produce a question mark expression which was later modified into a fake shrug/smile.

I, kind of having unofficially assisted my mother at location hunting, very well knew the drill.  I, a 7 year old could just make out who would help me out with the correct directions to my school and who wouldn’t. I felt very independent as I made my way towards my school. I was a minute away from school at the cross road, when the vehicles from the left side were released and  the crossing signal turned red; I was forced to halt. Cursing the traffic signal I looked at the left side.

 As the vehicles passed by I saw an old woman sitting on the opposite footpath all by herself. Something within me prompted me to go and see that woman. Maybe , it was my curiosity backed by her image being disturbed by the passing vehicles. May be I wanted to see her face. May be....

 As the signal turned green and all the vehicles stopped I ran to see the old woman.

 Her skin was containing over a million wrinkles ; it was the first thing I noticed in her. She reminded me of those anorexic faces my brother scared me away with. Within a fraction of a second I thought of her to be an anorexic and the immediate word that I associated with anorexic- food;prompted me to open my tiffin box.

 I was devastated to see what I saw then….. PRAWNS RICE!  After 3 months of the holy period and back to back Gods and their reincarnations’ birthday celebrations that doomed my fish craving, my mother had given my favourite delicacy.

 I looked at her and then looked at the ‘prawns rice’. A thought of tasting it , or giving the old lady half of it crossed my mind. But overcoming all those temptations I told myself, “I would never like eating someone’s leftovers. Given a choice no one would. Either I should give her the tiffin box intact,  or just not give it” (Indeed, I’m an extremist)

 I handed over the tiffin box to her and then the smile that shone on her face  is something that I still cherish.  

Looking at her smiling face I said, “You are indeed very hungry right?”

She looked me in the eye and said, “No, I’m just very happy.”

I was startled. I asked, “Happy, you also like prawns rice?”

She held the neatly packed tiffin box in her hand and said, “For the first time in the past 83 years someone has been so selfless to me.”

 I didn’t know the meaning of the word selfless then. So I just exhibited my classic confused expression.

With the view of clearing my doubt she said, “What will you eat now?”

That question churned wheels of day-dreaming in my head like never before. I said, “I don’t know, I didn’t really think about that. But, don’t worry, I’ll eat something from my friends tiffin, I guess.”

She shrugged, smiled gently and said, “Now ,that is selfless. Retain your innocence.Do not let it get lost in this human charade.”

I began to question my knowledge and vocabulary skills. I didn’t understand anything of what she was talking about, which triggered the memory of my class teacher with her patent dialogue that I never understood-‘Did you understand?’, to which everyone replied saying, ‘YES TEACHER’, while I simply used to ponder over everything. She had become so used to this dialogue that sometimes she used to start the class with-‘Did you understand?’ which was always followed by  –‘YES TEACHER’.

While my thoughts were flowing haywire the woman interrupted them saying, “Are you sure you will manage? Or else I‘ll take the half of it.”

I said, “No, No…. I’ll manage. Don’t worry.”

She laughed at me and said, “Don’t you have to go to school?”

Zipping my bag and transferring it onto my shoulder I said, “Yes, thanks… I’d completely forgotten about it. I’ll leave now”

The old woman glared at me with tears about to fall off her eyes and said, “May you always retain your innocence and go places. God bless you.”

I smiled back at her saying bye and went to school.

Later, in the evening when my mother was washing utensils she asked me for my tiffin box, which I had left with the old lady. I narrated the entire story to her. She listened to it without interrupting and with complete concentration . I’d thought she’d make prawns rice the whole week, now.

With a smile like never before she said, “Woww…… just another classic story from your mind. If you aren’t able to do anything with your life, you could be a very good storyteller. However I’m your mother…. And you can’t fool me. You have lost your tiffin and you shall not go to play this week.”

I am sharing my Do RIght Stories at in association with Tata Capital.


  1. Hi Shweta! Good one. I remember being lost once as a kid in Chennai. The most terrifying moment was when a herd of buffaloes (seemed more like elephants at my height at that age) passed by - I was frozen to the spot and thanked my stars (all of them) when they didn't pound me to the ground. Long story short, reached home safely and cried wells of tears only after my grandmom began comforting me.

    Like your style and glad to be introduced to you.

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