Khaleesi ka Dabba


Khaleesi ka Dabba

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

Objects that have mass are gravitationally attracted to each other – the larger the mass, the greater the attraction. In school, however, attraction had nothing to do with size. It had to do with tiffins. The tiffin with the best goodies single-handedly attracted everyone else during lunch break. To these people went all the smiles, poems, and admiration – the kind you reserve for the max star-wearing server at KFC.

In a world that offered cold bread and ketchup, cold bread and bhujia, cold bread and cheese, cold bread and *insert anything*, cold Maggi that turned into salty humid cakes and tasted like solidified Chinjabi manchow soup, cold poha, or sabzis that leaked gallons of oil, the owner of a well-packed, mildly warm, well-seasoned and delish chow mein earned the status of a Tiffin Khaleesi.

Tiffin Khaleesis exist in every schoolyard. They are usually the average and inconspicuous students who become stars for a brief moment every day, shoving the most popular kids in school into some serious dark corner of insecurity. No matter how lazily they rambled their arse in kho-kho games, danced with three left feet, broke absolutely no rules, had no gossip to trade, and had an attention span one-fourth the lifespan of a goldfish, no one could steal those 30 minutes of lunch-break fame from them. Not even the Chak De! team scoring the winning goal.

All the popular school kids – the spellathon nerds, gamers, holier-than-thou kids, poets, musicians, tennis players, powerful gossip queens, the shrewd students, loners, distinguished class leaders, Greek gods, and the wannabe Miley Cyruses – bowed before her during lunch hour. Blood of my blood, sun of my stars, moon of my life. That was the kind of attraction our Tiffin Khaleesi commanded.

But I had a heart-of-gold moment one day and wanted to befriend this lonely Khaleesi. I decided I was the Tyrion she needed.

But as soon as lunch hour timed out, the power of Khaleesi diminished and by the time class resumed, she didn’t even warrant a smile. No one ran to her in between classes to gossip, no one passed notes to her with jokes scribbled on them during lectures, no one even nominated her for useless voluntary services. No birthday girl or boy asked her to accompany them to distribute toffees in school; she wasn’t invited to secret societies. People even forgot to invite her to the school’s Facebook page. Even the peon had joined it and he didn’t even carry good food.

Tiffin Khaleesi had to try hard to fit in. She also needed friends who talked instead of chewing all the time. The only time people talked to her was when they wanted to tell her what food to bring the next day.

But I had a heart-of-gold moment one day and wanted to befriend this lonely Khaleesi. I decided I was the Tyrion she needed. I’m sure my other classmates too had this heart-of-gold moment because all of us knew she always brought extra food and at times carried three tiffin boxes with the hope to earn a friend or two. With the thought of befriending her, came an insecurity: What if she no longer found the need to carry three tiffins? What if she signed a bond of friendship with someone and forgot all about our sad starving stomachs? What if popularity got to her head? Was I woman enough to face that kind of enmity with the rest of the class? These questions boggled my young mind and I decided, for the greater good, to abort the plan.

So Khaleesi continued carrying three dabbas and until the last day of school, she didn’t have any friends. We called her “the tiffin girl” all the time and most of my classmates probably didn’t even know her name.

To be fair, Khaleesi took it rather well. She’d reconciled to being “the tiffin girl” forever and enjoyed the 30 minutes of fame daily. It was better than being “that girl who farted during class”. Identities in school are dodgy and being known for great food is no small task.

I have no idea where she ended up eventually, but I’m sure food had a role to play. Her lessons from the schoolyard would have helped her later in life – in a constantly hungry world, food will always have immense power. All she needed to learn was to use it well.