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.