Weekends are for that 10 minutes of extra lazing on the bed in the morning, leaving the bed untidy till someone in the house points it out, not thinking about what to wear and perhaps, not checking your phone as the first job of the day! Weekends are also for one extra cup of morning tea, trying to find that biscuit packet you bought only for yourself but never got a bite, relishing a little different brunch by skipping breakfast.

Today’s brunch was “Aaloo Poori”. Let’s call it AP, since I will be playing it in loop. Distinct memories of AP in school, was the packed lunch for the final day of inter-school athletics. I did get to hear that that many would get bread-aaloo lunch packets too. I liked the bread-aaloo sandwich made by bearerjis during local excursions or the self-made ones on Thursday, Kadhi day, once rice was over and you wanted something to accompany the tasty masala-aaloo you had saved at the left bottom side of your plate closest to you, so that even your fox-eyed neighbour can’t snatch it! Whether on Tuesday lunch, during special lunches/dinners or occasions of outbound trips, taste of AP was always the second most preferred meal. The top slot is still reserved for auntyji’s Bun-Omelet at Barlowganj. What was always loved about AP of school mess was the fact that bearerjis made pooris to feed over 400 mouths for any given event, on an average 4 pooris per mouth; so anywhere between 1500-2000 pooris. I hardly remember a burnt, over-fried/over-oily poori. They were mostly well cooked, chewable, if not tender. There were some really twisted and twerky pooris that would emerge sometimes, but even though cold, they were delicious. Inside these pooris would be hiding the masala aaloos. If one was lucky, one may get couple of pieces of aaloo more than his/her friend. Else, one of the many miracles that bearerjis performed was, the same number of pooris and exactly the same number of aaloo pieces in every lunch packet.

“Mussoorie Olympics” as the inter-school athletics was popularly called, was preceded by at least a month’s heats of events. For people like me, who were not really athletes or even aspired to be one in our fairest of fantasies, for us, even more critical than the final sports day was the “indexing day”. We knew, no matter our weight and height, we would never be on a track or have a field day. But we could have an off day by giving our name in some random track or field event and go to Wynberg Allen for the indexing day. The next chance to visit Wynberg Allen would be to gorge on AP for lunch, on the final day of Mussoorie Olympics.

Indexing was very serious business. If calculated and planned well, a boy would be ready to look like a beggar suffering from syphilis, by “reducing”. Unfortunately, not much could be done with height. A few boys would remarkably get a mongoose haircut to feel good that they “reduced” their height too. With all the physical harassment inflicted on self and mind-blowing arithmetic calculation and some good luck on the indexing day, a class IX boy would qualify to run with boys at least 5 yrs younger and beat them fairly easily to win a championship for his house in the inter-house athletics competition. But, the same boy faced some major competing issues on track and field in the same Division in the inter-school athletics competition, which culminated in the Mussoorie Olympics Day. Maybe, class IX boys from all schools now were competing in a legitimate race! Who knows! Indexing was essentially a simple equation of height and weight, to decide what shape and size of girls and boys would create a category to compete against each other. This group was called a “Division”. The youngest, lightest and funniest Division was sub-junior, followed by Juniors Division. Mostly, heartbroken boys who turned beggars with syphilis and yet could not make the cut formed the juniors division. Then came Inters Division, which according to me, was like the puberty phase of life. You did not know what to do about things that were growing in you. The heaviest, boldest and most coveted Division was the Seniors Division. During my time, there were a rare set of boys who could ‘reduce’ a bit to weigh well within Inters Division, but chose to stay in Seniors Division and win events. Readers may be wondering where did AP go? Well, boys like me, would be vulturing around the boys who were “reducing” to hog on their butter and eggs for breakfast, rice for lunch, mutton & sweet dish at dinners and AP in any form or shape in school and during trips outside. I suspect, the story of vultures was pretty similar in girls school too! We could see syphilis coming!

– Kanishka Mallick (1996)

This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on  June 20, 2020 via a personal message.


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