Did you eat, Miss?

It’s 2009 and I went to school (Government Kannada Model Primary School, Pottery Town) today during lunchtime. I volunteer part-time at this school in my neighbourhood.

Divya and others enquired if I’d eaten and wanted me to join them. I can meet them only on Saturday mornings as I have recently resumed working full time and they’re busy with tests/exams and will continue to be. Some are a tad disappointed but others know that we can continue to interact outside class.

Suhasini, Surya, Divya, Monika, Vijay et al want me to come from Monday 12th January as their next round of tests are from the 19th January to 24th January. When I explained why I could not come, they made me promise that I’ll be there next Saturday too. Michael is keen to know if any of his drawings were published. Initially, he couldn’t understand why I’d asked him for them until Sudharshan (the other popular artist who first suggested sending his sketches to Young World) explained to him. Both have promised to give me their best work, although the latter has been absent for a while.

Venkatesh watched a programme on dolphins on Animal Planet and has been alternating between studying, playing and helping with housework. His older brother who met with a fire accident is still recovering. The mischievous Ramesh who helps his mother with her domestic cleaning job wanted photos of himself posing differently along with Venkatesh. When he laughed at an elderly, injured man limping past, I suggested that that was bad. Venkatesh added that addressing physically impaired people as “lame”, et cetera was rude.

Varsha, Murthy, Surya and Suhasini worked hard to clean the staff room under their teachers’ supervision, missing part of their meal. Narayana and Sandeep who wanted to play, jumped in, partly due to my urging. Pushpalatha who was helping serve food to the other children had nothing left for herself. Monika saved her entire share for her younger siblings and tried to convince me that she fasts on Saturdays. She resisted my attempts to probe the issue further with a "Miss, please do not raise this topic again." When I asked Suhasini why she didn’t excuse herself from the chore, she exclaimed, “But I’ve never done that!” smiling shyly.

Later, I met Narayana who hasn’t been around often and he narrated how he lost his younger brother to typhoid due to delayed medical assistance. After I explained to Venkatesh and Narayana the significance of the ECAAL Zero Rupee note, he took one saying, “I will show it to any government hospital worker who demands money!” Venkatesh says that legal and police personnel often accept bribes to acquit/release criminals or ignore traffic rule violators.

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