I look at my watch. Two minutes to go
before break time and the class is visibly
agitated. Everybody is restless. Even Mr.
Lee our mathematics teacher is fidgeting
quietly in his seat, looking outside every
now and then.
The bell rings, exploding the subdued
silence of the school. I feel a tangible
change in mood among my classmates. The
brooding atmosphere immediately gives way
to an excited chatter of happy voices. Mr.
Lee strides quickly out of the class. We run.
We run toward the tuckshop, slowing down
every time we encounter a teacher in our
path. Teachers are so slow. They block the
way and waste our precious twenty minutes
of break time.
Nevertheless I am always one of those first
at the tuckshop. I order a plate of mee and
ladle a generous helping of gravy onto the
mee. The thin Indian man sells the best mee
in the world, especially the gravy that goes
with the mee. Next I move over to the
refreshment stall of the tuckshop and buy a
glass of fruit juice. By this time the tuckshop
is crowded with jostling pupils all trying to
buy their favorite food. i sit down at one of
the huge tables in the tuckshop. For a minute
or so I am oblivious to my surroundings.
What matters most is the delicious taste of
mee in my mouth, and the subsequent thirst-
quenching feeling of cold fruit juice running
down my throat to my stomach.
Ah ..., a full stomach is a happy stomach.
When I become aware of my surroundings
again, I can see one of my classmates sitting
opposite me gobbling down his food. I look
around. the tables are all fully seated. I see
heads all bowed down and mouths
feverishly chewing. One boy is gesturing
frantically with his rice-filled spoon at his
friend opposite him. Obviously he is trying
to press a point home but I do not think he is
having much success except for the bits of
rice that keep flying out of his mouth. You
should not talk when eating, my mother
always tells me. How true it is.
Somebody nudges my shoulder. He wants
me to get up because I have had my meal
and he has not. He holds a plate of rice in his
hands. I get up.
The din in the tuckshop is terrific. I see
some blue-shirted prefects unsuccessfully
trying to keep the pupils in line when buying
food. The tuckshop sells many things --
mee, rice, drinks, sweets and other titbits.
Money changes hands quickly. the
shopkeeper and his assistants are working at
a frantic rate. Young boys crowd around,
pushing and shoving, trying to buy their
food. Hunger is a very powerful force,
Where are the girls ? We have girls in the
school too. I look around, Ah, there they are,
demurely seated at a table, one table out of a
dozen, eating slowly and gracefully unlike
the boys who behave as though they have
not eaten for days. Elsewhere I see groups of
girls standing and waiting for the rush to be
over before they buy their food.
Gradually the number of buyers at the stalls
peter out and the girls move in. The
difference is so great. the girls do not rush.
In fact they take their time buying their food
and they even help one another in buying.
what contrasting sets of human beings they
are, the boys and the girls.
A few minutes before the end of break time,
the stalls are almost deserted. The mee seller
has already packed up. There will be no mee
for latecomers. The pupils move out of the
tuckshop to gossip in unrestricted areas.
All too soon the bell goes, signaling the
beginning of the rest of the lessons. I walk
slowly toward my classroom. Nobody runs.
Some stall for as long as possible before
moving. Like worker ants we make our way
to our classrooms. Like soldier ants the
prefects move the opposite way -- toward
the tuckshop, they have to eat too, whatever
MATHS FOR JEE MAINS
PHYSICS FOR JEE MAINS