the revenge of the tiffin box

tiffin boxes

Most of the years Dhanno was growing up, I snoozed in bed, while Teja prepared her breakfast, packed her tiffin, sent her off to school. He is the one who waited with her for the school bus, then a few years later, drove her to her new school in the next block, and then later, said bye to her at the door as she walked off to school on her own.

Long break tiffins were usually leftover pasta, rajma-chawal, or pau-bhaji from dinner, potato-cheese-chutney sandwiches, jam and roti rolls, or the occasional ‘get a vada pav from the canteen’. Small break tiffins were unimaginatively biscuits or dry fruit or a fruit or sometimes a slice of cake.

For years, Teja and I spoke, while we perambulated one or the other of the gardens near our house, “Once Dhanno is 18, we will….” We would travel, we would be free, we would do what we liked, we would be bored, we would cry our hearts out.

When Dhanno did turn 18, for one, she reared her heels in, and refused to leave for a hostel like any self-respecting, fed-up-of-my-parents teenager should. She likes her orange room too much.

After a considerable amount of stress, she did get into a good college in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land and we were jumping around to “Yahoo!”

Then what do you know, but in a week’s time, she began falling ill. And ill. And ill. And ill. She lost a lot of weight, she fainted a couple of times, she had no strength even to get out of bed at times.

I took her to a nutritionist.

Now, we have a regime. Four tiffins, big bottle of water with electrolyte salts, extra juice or chaas in her bag.

Finally, she goes to a college where there are no text books or note books. She has a locker for her instruments. But she still has a huge haversack for all the food she needs to carry.

Evenings are spent in preparing meals large enough for dinner and a mini-lunch tiffin and a big-lunch tiffin for the next day. Then there is the tiffin she has to sneakily consume in the middle of a classroom lecture. And the tiffin she has to eat after college, before she heads back home. After dinner, we rest for a while before we begin the task of packing all the tiffins. In the morning, we wake up to make her breakfast. During the day, we check the fridge and the shelves to see what we are running out of, and what we need to load up on for the next few days.

A long, long time ago, when Dhanno was very little, and life was a round of feeding her and cleaning her poo, I said to a friend of mine, “This too shall pass.” 18 years later, I am a feeding machine once again.

Not to mention the fact, that I feel guilty-Mom all over again, for all the tiffins I did not pack while she was in school.


  1. Oh, poor Dhanno! And poor you.😦

    I hope she’s better now, and I hope you’ve gotten out of feeling guilty. Cheer up – sometimes it’s nobody’s fault that someone’s fallen ill. I know.

  2. As soon as I saw alu chutney sandwich, I wanted to come comment but thought I’d better read the rest of the post first. Poor Dhanno and poor you. Big hugs all round.

    And I envy you – was there ever a time when you escaped that sense of guilt? Tell me how!

    • Space Bar, what is it about alu chutney sandwich that made you want to comment? All I can think of is the fab ones you get on Mumbai rasta stalls?

      I guess I staved away a lot of guilt by watching silly Hindi movies.πŸ™‚

    • Harvey, it was meant to be funny.πŸ™‚ Except of course, the Dhanno falling ill part.
      Thanks for sending Dhanno lots of energy. She does need it.

  3. i can feel your mommy guilt. but see, you got your redemption now. as much as you are diligent about the tiffins, i hope you dont have to do this for a long time. i hope she is on her way to beating it.

    • Sukanya, yes, she is getting better now, and gaining some weight. She also gained 1 cm, which made me feel even more guilty, if you can figure that one out.

  4. I hope Dhanno is much better,; sending her many, many best wishes. I went through that phase when I was eighteen.😦

    And you now have me craving the alu and chutney sandwiches from Bombay streets! (They were supremely awesome. India has some of the best street food in the world.)

    • Anu, what is it with 18? I was so shamelessly healthy at the time, even when miserable otherwise.

      Yes, Indian street food is good, better than restaurant food most times.

      • Banno, I do not know if my state (then) is similar to your daughter’s now – I was very healthy until I left home at eighteen and a half (I graduated then!) to work (and that’s a whole another story). What with being adamant that I wouldn’t ask anyone for any help, and having to pay for hostel, bus passes and meals on a meagre salary that I was earning then, the last week of every month found me starving except for breakfast which the hostel provided. By the time I came back from work, dinner would have been cleared, so I would usually go to bed hungry. After about three months of this, I was so weak, I fainted. On the way to work.. Just when I was getting into a crowded bus. And so on, and so forth.

        • Anu, that’s one story. The conditions you describe would be enough to make anyone weak. It was really brave of you to weather that out.

          Of course, Dhanno has a comfortable life, in comparison. It’s just been a round of flu, fever, antibiotics, sinus.

  5. That’s too bad! But hopefully your Dhanno will be better soon and you’ll get mukti from the tiffin-prep as well as the guilt! Mommy-guilt is something we suffer throughout our lives (I still havent got over when I had the bath a bit too warm for the baby and she squawked in shock – and my baby is 25 now!) As to freedom, I have it now but I look back at those madly-busy days with nostalgia now..

    • Suja, mukti is the right word. Actually, it doesn’t really take a lot of time, it’s just all the thinking about it.

      I know, the madly-busy days are nice. For all our talk about freedom, we were dreading her going away.

  6. This sounds like real hard work — so many tiffins! But I hope it helps and Dhanno gains strength. We have been neglecting the child’s tiffin too, but mostly because we have no control over her eating in school. She chooses to not as much as touch the food if I try to put in something healthy. So biscuits and cakes it is!

  7. I hope she gets well really soon and builds up her resistance really well. And you can just ignore the guilt- useless, omnipresent thing that it is. Big hugs to you all.

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