Thursday, December 8, 2011

Courtable Courts

Since nothing has been posted for long, I have recycled something that was on the 'Conventies' group on Orkut (No, I did not have to go to the museum to retrieve it!).

We lived with so many beliefs, stories, and lines that they formed an important part of our growing up years. Presented below are some of the lines that I remember. Please feel free to add your own. Also, if any of you think you have something to post in this blog to keep it from dying, please let me know so I can add you as authors on the blog.

So here comes the list...

1) "Dont talk while I'm writing on the board.i can see u.I've got eyes at the back of my head too"
-Sheshukumari mam, inspiration for the character of "Severus Snape"

2) "Sai Rama....are you a rakshasha?"
-Vimla aunty, if she caught u fighting..

3) "Rascals,jingoists,lying leprechauns,mentally retarded morons,half-wit vagabonds......"
-Anantalakshmi mam, famed author of "Thesaurus of Insults for kids,part-1,2,3.

4) "Go bite......"
-Bull amma, Professional Tyrant.

5) "#*@!&$ *&%!@$"
-Bull amma, if u happened to enter the dorm when she was mopping.

6) "Aaahh...amma,sorry amma,please amma,aaahhhh....."
-You, if u still dared to enter the dorm!!!

7) "Shameless donkey!Go to class 5 and learn 7 table...."
-Manorathi mam, winner of "Best Pincher in the World Award-2006"

8) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam, in 1996

9) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam,in 1998

10) "I am 75 years old and still I can dance.."
-Tall Viju mam, in 2000

11)"Sai Rama......"
-Tulasi amma. (only thing she ever said)

12)"Dont eat chewing gums.They are made of pigs' tails"
-(again) Anantalakshmi mam

13)"..............?.........!.................. ?"
-Valli amma (never heard or understood anything she said"

14)"Dirty boy,talking dirty things?Get out of here,dirty...."
-Uma mam, Runner up in the "Best pincher in the world awards-2006",who always mistook my name to be "Dirty Ranjan"

15)"Amma ledu,Bomma Ledu....."
-Ram Tulasi amma, when u asked her to mix a little cold water in the tub during bath(still dunno what it means)

16)"...Rakshash, Pishachi, Goonda, Jaanvar........."
-Shashi mam, owner of the only garden in the world in which plants grow even they are given more milk than water!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The very first time I entered the school compound, the very first thing I noticed was the huge blue elephant, whose trunk reached the ground. While we were walking towards the building, my sister ran towards it, climbed on it, and slid down. I remember watching in awe!

I was scared of the Elephant. I would walk into the elephant, but was too scared to slide down the other end of its alimentary canal. I would walk into the dark cave, and stand there. Someone had etched the names ‘Sai Gita’ and ‘Sai Kishore’ with stone. I would stare at it. I would say something, and listen to my echo, sounding like the bellowing of a monster from deep within its stomach

I would walk up gingerly to the top of the Elephant’s head and inspect the world from my crow’s nest. The world that looked small and insignificant from my high position...

Then somebody would scream from the back, I’d excuse myself, and climb back down!!

There were two smaller slides to the right of the Elephant. They were humbler, made of metal and would heat up like a tawa in the afternoon. They were much smaller, and so I’d climb them up, and turn back to face the Elephant, like Jack Sparrow facing Kraken. I would sometimes walk under the elephant, looking at its huge, pillar-like legs in awe.

I remember the first time I slid down its trunk. We were in 2nd standard and after dinner, we were asked to go out and play in the ground.

So we went to the ground to play. Being in second standard, my friends had graduated to cooler tricks like sliding down backwards, or without holding the edges of the slide. Loka mam was at the bottom, helping people to stand up once they had reached the base.

Ready to face my demons, I climbed up, stood for a few seconds and slid down. Loka mam clapped, and said “Very Good!”

But she was Loka ma’am. She’d say “Very Good” even if I shrieked and jumped off in fear!

The “Very Good”, however, went a long way in giving me the confidence.

After that day, the Elephant became a friend. I would spend the entire Games Time climbing up from back and sliding down the front.

Through dormitories and corridors, the sight of the Elephant, standing alone in the ground, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk, gave me hope. It reassured me that the classes would end, and there would be Games Times, and fun, and laughter.

When I returned to the school after many years, the Elephant didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. It’s not very big, probably the size of a real elephant.

I wish it grew as well. I wish it still intimidated me. I wish I could climb it up again and scream while sliding down. Over the years, as we grew up, the Elephant was replaced with games like Cricket, Chick-chasing and Age of Empires. But it’s still there.

The Elephant, standing alone under the hot sun, waiting for kids to slide down its trunk.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


At the beginning of every year, along with the new timetables, text books, and freedoms that were allotted to us, one bit of information we sought for the year was regarding two days of the week: Library Day and Video Day.

These two days were the special days of the week (excepting Sunday, of course). I dont particularly remember why the library days were sought after that much. It was just for one period in the week, and we would go to the library and read the same books (the illustrated classics, the Guiness Book of World Records, books on cricket, or the posters of water animals, minerals, that hung on the walls). We couldn't talk much, and before we settled comfortably and were half way through a story, the bell would ring, signalling the end of the class.

But the Video Day was something else altogether. The video shows were our windows into a magical world. They gave us things to think about during 'meditation times' and stories to re-enact in the classroom before the evening bhajans. They gave us fantasies and created our first perception of the world outside us.

Through the video shows, there were flights of navigators around the world, talking pigs and loyal dogs. Of babies lost in big cities, and Buddha in his teens. Of Mowgli wooing a British chick in the jungle and Michael Jordan teaming up with bunnies in space.

Of chocolate factories that had rivers made of orange juice and chocolate trees that grew by them. Of Mary Poppins who could hop into a painting with her magic umbrella. Or setting off to Africa on an adventure in a jungle. All the images would remain in our mind for a long time.

The excitement for the day would begin from the morning itself. The morning assembly and the class would seem to fly past. There would be a buzz in the air and rumours flying around as to what film might be shown. Seniors or juniors who have seen a film in the week would tell us of the film, and we would listen with awe, and wait with bated breath for the time to arrive.

The bhajans in the evening zoomed past, there was a general sense of happiness in the air. The class that had video show on that night was called 'first for dinner', and so we had to linger on with the books after bhajans for only about half an hour.

We hurried when the call came. There was no talking or chattering during the dinner. Everybody would be rushing to finish the dinner and go upstairs for the film. Within ten minutes, the entire class would be in the dormitory, talking, laughing, speculating, discussing, and waiting.

It was generally a teacher who called us into the video hall. One of the tech savvy mams, like Sadhna mam or Neena mam. The video hall was in the new portion of the school that was constructed. This was a welcome addition, as earlier video shows took place in the E dormitory, and it was hard to get transported to another world when you were brought back down to earth by the smell of medicines, soap, and toilet.

The new corridor however was new and clean and magical – as it contained both the video room as well as the library. The corridor had white walls with upside down cresent shaped holes in them through which sunlight came in streams in the day time.

There would be a mad scramble for places in front of the TV. For some strange reason, guys would fight to sit right in front of the TV. There would be a cane chair at the back for aunty to sit on. People occupied places for their best friends, some of the friends sat in groups close by.

After everyone was seated, mam would walk in with a cassette or two in hand. All the children would crane their necks to see what was written on the white label sticker on the tape, and there would be hushed whispers....

There were some KLPD weeks when the film would be Ramayan and Mahabharat, leading to sighs among the audience. But if we were in with some good luck, there was a new film waiting for us.

The cassette would be pushed into the player. The green light on the panel of the player would glow, and the count would begin at 00:01, in bright green letters. The lights would be switched off, and the journey would begin...

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Final Journey Pt 1

Going back to Parthi has always been a sad feeling for me. Since we travelled in the Orissa group, we were always the last people to go home and the first to return after holidays. The journey was quieter, and we dreaded each place as it arrived - Mahboobnagar, Dharmavaram, Anantapur, and finally the bus stand.

But this time, it was different.

We had decided to go to Parthi in the spur of the moment, at 1 in the night. Since there were no buses to Parthi directly, we decided to go to Kurnool, and from there to Anantapur, and then from there to Parthi.

After a series of obstacles, (bus breaking down, mosquitoes, crazy driver), in what could be attributed to some serious sankalpa, we approached "the hamlet that was a stone's throw away from the stone age", as it has been described in numerous speeches in the Kulwanth hall.

Narrow roads, posters of Pavan Kalyan films, and the gateways in pastel blue, pink and yellow colours with angels holding the Sarva Dharma emblems in their hands. This time though, many of the houses had Swami's photos outside their houses, and bhajans were playing on CD players.

A little further, and we reached 'Super'. We could not take the usual road from Super, as it was barricaded. Our bus took a detour and after a while, we saw the Hanuman statue.

Even though we saw it everyday, there is something about the Hanuman statue that would make us tap the person next to us and say, “See, see. Hanuman statue”

It brought a smile to my face. Hours of sitting in the stadium waiting for our turn in the 'Item-wise practice', and the conversations that came up:

“Jesus is saying, 'All of you come in line to the hotel'”
“Buddha is saying, 'Mmmm, food is super'”
“Zorashtra is saying, 'All of you come on at a time'”
“Hanuman is saying, 'If you dont eat quietly, I'll throw this mountain on your heads'”

There he was, Hanuman. Smiling and as ever ready to throw the mountain as ever.

After sometime, our bus reached the MRO office, and we got down. It was like a mela. There were people walking in both directions, the cars and buses jostling for parking space in the fields nearby, chitraannam and water packets being distributed to everybody by volunteers.

There is a new road constructed that connects the Chitravathi Road and Samadhi Road from the back, to the MRO office. That was the road we had to walk to.

Along the road, you could hear bhajans, children screaming 'Sai Ram, Water Packet Water Packet', and people would take a water packet, drink it,duly drop it there, and walk on. The walk took half an hour, but could have been done in ten minutes. We were taking in the sight. There were teachers, sevadals, Parthi locals, and students in the lines.
You always know when it is a student, thanks to some telltale signs. The hair is short (and if long, combed in a middle parting), there is a Vibhuti on the forehead, no chappals, and he is always looking around to see if anyone has seen him.

The road meets the Chitravathi Road after the steps to Kalpavriksha. The Chitravathi river was dry, and used for parking cars. From here, you had to take a left to go into the lane.

This lane has been part of numerous memories of childhood. I did not go home during winter holidays, so I would loiter around Chitravathi Road all through the day. Me and Enrico, in white dress, hopping from one shop to the other and flicking Tinkles and Big Babool Multipacks.

The lane still looks the same, only a lot busier. The Tibetan shops, and cafes with a variety of names – from the banal (Blue Lagoon Cafe) to the spiritual (Sai Hanuman Mountain Rock Cafe).

Small shops, A/C Deluxe Rooms, Travel Agencies, Kashmiri shops, watermelon sellers, 'Meals Ready' hotels, saloons that had a photo of Swami on one side and Allu Arjun on the other, Sai Studios, its still the same.

Except that now everyone has a mobile phone. While someone is talking on the phone, the other is taking a picture.

The place where buses are kept in the bus stand is full of huge vans belonging to news channels. There is a large screen right in front of the bus stand (with an ancient van from Doordarshan) that's airing the scenes inside the hall to the people outside. Every two minutes, there are announcements from people in a different language, asking their son/wife/husband to meet their mother/husband/wife at the bus stand.

We had not brought any white clothes. Upon a friend's suggestion, we went to the pavement seller outside the Canara Bank, in front of the General Hospital. This was the place where we assembled after darshan to be shepherded back to the hostel by Sailesh Srivastava.

This road was our own Hogsmeade. We used to often sneak out of the lines to buy whatever we could from these shops. The Prabhu Sai Optical Store with photographs of Chiranjeevi and Pavan Kalyan in 'cooling glasses'. This was the shop where I had got my first spectacles frame done: oval shaped and photocromatic – successfully managing to look like a hippie pimp for two years.

The Sai Joy shop, which gave us the little joys in life. The street vendors – who sold Arrow and Van Huesen next to each other in an ultimate show of Sarvadharma. And the internet cafe where I paid 80 rupees an hour to get the tackiest email id known to mankind:

The cooler in front of the bus stand, the Satyadeep Musical store, that supplied all the tablas and harmoniums to the ashram, the watch repairer who waits for an auspicious day to return the watch you'd given for repair. It all came flashing back to me.

We bought a pair of whites each, kept our bag in the cloak room, and after a quick Pranayama session in the bus stand Gents toilets, we were ready to get into the mandir.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Random Memories: Institute Clock

I hated the after-lunch session of classes. The excellent food made me drowsy, and the constant chanting/recitation from the classrooms acted as a lullaby. Somewhere around the last class, I would say, "Ma'am, toilet"

"No.1 or No.2?"

"No.2, ma'am"

"Dirty boy, go."

I remember how the dormitories would look when classes were going on. It was calm and quiet. Sunlight would stream in through the yellow, meshed windows and you could see the dust particles in the streams of light. The beds would be piled in between the blocks of shelves, and banians would be hanging on the strings and underwears on the windows. The only noise was some tap that was left open, or wouldn't close, in spite of the rope tied to it.

I would walk into the 3rd-4th dormitory. There were two doors, one the main door, and the other one near the wall, that had no 'door'. If you stood near the other door, you could not be seen by teachers who were going up or down the stairs to the girls dorms.

I would stand there and stare at the Institute Clock. It was a big, square, white clock with black hands and lines. This is a distinct memory.

I would stand there and stare at the clock. I could see the institute building, and specks of white coming in and out of the buildings. Big brothers would walk in lines to the mandir, and somewhere in the distance, you could hear a class go,

"Swami hamaare aage hai, Swami hamaare peechhe hai.
Swami har jagah mein hai, is liye to Swami...

(Dragging tone) Hum theeeeek hai, Hum khush hai

It was the best place to bunk a class. I would stare at the clock for minutes at a stretch, till I heard a chime. The clock would give out a small melody, followed by a gong. Four bells to signal it was four o clock.

Immediately, the bell would ring. There would be an uproar from the classes. And I would rush down to eat custard from the yellow, Indian Airlines katoris.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All the euphoria around the World Cup takes me back to the two World Cups that I got to witness at Parthi.

For the first one, I was too young to remember much. We were in fourth standard, and our Class Teacher Shruti mam would come and tell us that India won the match, or lost. We knew nothing about cricket, but we celebrated when he heard India had won.

The 96 World Cup caused a lot of us to gain an interest in cricket, and soon the madness caught in.

By the fifth standard, we had our cricket collections ready, and cricket was quite the craze. Reading the newspaper's sports page after lunch, getting some cricket gyaan from Vasanthi aunty, and the Unity Cup, all fuelled our interest further.

The Unity Cup was a wet dream come true for most of us. The Indian team that had come had all the major stars (except Azhar). There were crazy rumours doing the rounds. That Afridi, when he was served vegetarian food, asked for non-veg, and in anger threw the plate at some institute guy's face. We were all kicked to watch our heroes in action, when the tragedy of the matter struck us.

We could not watch the Indian innings because we had to perform dance items in the interval. I remember wearing my costume for the annamaya dance with tears in my eyes. By the time we were taken to the pitch, India had pretty much finished their batting.

The Unity Cup was our first meeting with Venkatesh Prasad, who later on became a regular visitor to the school. There was this one instance when he came to the Prayer Hall and sat near swami's chair. We didn't know what to do, and to ease the discomfort, someone gave him a duff. He took it in his hand, and chang-changed the cymbals, turned it this way and that, and returned it to the guy.

In 1999, came the next World Cup. This one began when we were at home in the Summer Holidays, and continued through June, when we came back to school. This was the year when we were to move from PS to 'that school'.

It was still the beginning days, and so we were still quite overwhelmed with our new found liberties, and every experience a new one for us. Cricket in the other school was a dicey matter.

The TV was under the control of the AVC guys, who would unmistakably be Oriya (I have always wondered what the C in AVC boys stood for?)

So these AVC guys were bestowed with the responsibility of holding the remote and switching channels when a match was going on. It was an experience in itself. Sit expectantly in front of the TV, and the AVC guy comes, open the wooden door to reveal the TV. But his responsibility was more that just that.

He had to ensure that our pure minds were not corrupted by evil even during the match. So this AVC guy would change the channel everytime there was some objectionable ad came on in between the overs. If he mistimed a press of the button and a little spicy something was visible for a few seconds, a collective 'ah' would emanate from the hungry crowd.

The AVC guys were under Prushty sir, who of course, was under Janardhanan. Janardhanan sir loved cricket and had quite a reputation about it. There were stories that one Jaan sir was the umpire in a cricket match that was going on in the stadium. The bowler is coming in to bowl, and he stretches out his hand, stops him and says, “Ayen fellown, gon and get a hainrcut”.

He is the ultimate authority so his mood decided if we could watch a match or not during study hours. And you never knew when he got into the moods. There were times when a fall of wickets, or a little cheering from the watchers would mean that the AVC guys would lock the TV back in its wooden case and pack all of us back to our rooms for 'study hours'. And once this was done, there was a made craze to know the score.

The AVC guys were in demand for this. They could go into the TV room and see the score. But if you were nowhere near him, you devised your own ways of knowing the score. One guy would peer into the TV room from the B floor terrace by hanging on to the pipes. This would be done to an extent when gravity will have no option but to drag the guy's head to the floor. And then, listen to the commentary, and tell all the other guys hovering around the place.

Throughout the study hours, whispers would be passed from one room to another, and the guys who go downstairs to get milk would generally be requested to go take a peek at the score. The more courageous had transmitters that they carried to the bathrooms, and searched frantically amidst the airwaves and frequencies for an “Aur yeh.....BSNL chaukaa!”

In an age where it is possible to watch the match from anywhere and everywhere, it seems quaint to ask the milkman for the score, but the pleasure of hearing updates every ten minutes, with added descriptions that sounded like a Greek epic by the time it passed around, was something else.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

From PS to BS

Those who have studied in PS will acknowledge the fact that the place was terrificly managed. Though there were about a thousand children, everything worked in clockwork precision, and there was always second helping of everything, and you were a happy, well-fed, cog in the wheel. But the HS (and comparing the two has become something of a hobby now)was a different story altogether. Here are some examples of some lessons for managers, in how NOT to manage things.

Lets begin with the lunch. In PS, since there were so many children, everyone was not
'called' for lunch at once. Instead, each class would be called for lunch one after the other. So, that way, by the time one class was called, almost all the other guys would have finished their lunches (except those who ate slowly who would be made to sit in the sisters' side, and then eat slower). However, the system in HS was something else.

A bell would signify we could leave school and walk to the hostel. And then another in the hostel to announce that lunch was ready. Then, a second bell to say we better get our asses in the hall, and quickly. Now, when everyone was in the hall, everyone would take their plates, get served (“Brother, some more vegetable? Limited. Brother, some more dal? Limited. Brother, some more buttermilk? “Sai Ram”, a divine way of saying 'Buzz off').

We would wait for everyone to take their plates, and after the last guy has taken his plate, the prayer would begin. Now, imagine the plight of the guy who was the first to take his plate. Poor guy must have been hungry, and probably ran to take his plate, but now has to wait for the last guy, who would sashay in at his own sweet pace, and take his seat. Then, the prayers would begin, but not before Rammohan sir would first give some important announcements, or just some arbit gyan. Once that was done, Om would be chanted thrice, followed by the gayatri mantra, chanted thrice, in slow motion. This was then followed by the Sai gayatri, thrice, in slow motion, followed by Bramharpanam, in slow motion. Now, think again about that hungry guy who was the first to take his plate. His mood feels like shit, and his food has gone cold, but he has to eat it nevertheless. And there will be two 12th std guys standing by him, in case he turns to tell the guy next to him that his food tastes like shit.

Another rule that perplexed me was the whole 'not entering other's room' thing. The history behind the rule was that once, Swami had said, “Boys are not studying. They only keep going to each other's rooms like cats and dogs.” Now, anyone with an IQ over 100 would tell you, the emphasis is on 'not studying'. There's something called inference. But no.

The rule was that you could not enter others' rooms. So, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to do it while standing on the threshold of the room. And if you wanted to talk something in private, well, you know the kind of implication saying, “Aye fellow, come out na, I want to talk to you about something in private” would have there.

And now, what happened if you broke the room? You were made to live in that room. Your luggage would be shifted into that room, and you had to sit there during study hours too. I found this rule baffling, but extremely enjoyable. During my three years, I stayed in a number of my friends' rooms, and it was always great fun. Of course, you had to endure a few PHWs on the way, but it was alright.

Among the other gems was the one for money spending. Now, we all knew spending money is a vice and it was important to think beyond the banal, and the materialistic. Point noted. Now how we do go about it? Don't let the students handle money. In its place, introduce a total kickass foolproof, desire-curbing method that made the Lehman brothers seem like Lava and Kusha. It went like this.

If you wanted to buy something, you did not use cash. Instead, there were yellow slips on which you wrote your name, your roll number, the item you wish to buy, and the price, and then signed on it. This was terrific, for those who had money and wanted to buy. It was also terrific for those who wanted to enjoy life's little pleasures (like Fruit Salad for dinner) without having to bother about little obstacles like paying for it. So what you did was you took a slip, thought of the biggest asshole in the class, wrote his name, roll number, and signed on it. There, you had what you wanted, without having to stoop into the maya of the finances of it.

Not surprisingly, some people of the class had a negative 3000 rupees in their accounts, inspite of only eating Satwik produce that was prepared by Dr. Nilakantha under the able hands of cooks who sometimes burnt their sins along with the food. After about two months, everyone realised that this would not work. To the utter dismay of many of us, this system was replaced by another terrific system, the Credit Card system. The Credit Card system was announced to us in the Prayer Hall by Rammohan sir, as being the Masthishka Putra of Janardhan sir.

The Credit Card was another stroke of ingenuity that would put investment bankers to shame. The Credit Card was a rectangular card, that had numbers printed on both sides. So you had 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2... and so on till 50. If you want to buy something from the stores, you approached your class sir for a card. Your finances were checked and you were issued a Card. The guy in stores would take your card, and punch on it whatever was the amount of the item you took. If you wanted to buy something more than 50 bucks, you had to take two cards.

Our swindling brothers got around this one too. You first bought something worth 5 rupees or so, and then hold the card from the punched side, covering the hole that had been punched. But it was too much risk and if you could got caught, you'd get punched yourself.

The end result was that you thought of the process of buying from the stores too cumbersome. Instead, you walked past the stores, looking longingly at the all the things you would have bought, if not for this galeej idea. Your desires were never curbed, they were only limited to 50 bucks.

Crazy shit!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Favourite foods

I know Annam is Brahma. But then we all have our favourite Gods, don't we? So, I think I can safely go about listing my favourite foods without my name going to mam, or my soul going to hell. When I would go home in the holidays and people would ask me what sort of food they gave us in school, I really didn't know what to say. Was is South Indian food? Or North Indian? Or Continental? I think it was Heavenly. I have had food every single day since I left the school :-) and I have to admit, nothing matches up to the kind of food we were given there. Not a patch. Here a list of my favourite foods. You tell me yours.

Vada: I have had what Mumbaikars call 'vada', the one they put in the vada-pav, and I can't help smirking. Those guys have no idea what an actual vada is. I mean, the original brown vada, the vada with the hole. The vadas in PS were big, round doughnuts that were crisp as they were tasty. I have had vadas outside, and they were all either chewing-gummy, or dripping with so much oil that they would give Iraq a complex. But the vadas in PS were to be eaten to be felt. And you could take as many idlis as you pleased, but it was only one vada per kundalini chakra. This made the vadas even more pricey. I remember a friend of mine and me once were supposed to serve breakfast before morning darshan. We flicked handfulls of vadas, ran to the pantry and started stuffing ourselves. Sadhna mam caught us, nearly yanked our ears off and told our class teacher about it. I was let off, but he had to forego his 'tray chance'. I am still undecided if it was worth it. I mean, eating three of those vadas was moksha in itself.

Chitraannam and Pongal: The name Chitraannam gives me memories of Keya aunty going around with the vessel, screaming 'Sitraanaam Sitraanaam' and everyone in the line raising their hands like Nazi officers. Chitraannam was rice mixed with a bit of ecstacy and spruced with groundnuts. Chitraannam was perhaps the most common breakfast, but we never got enough of it. And come Shivratri, and the joy was taken a level higher. Hot chitraannam coupled with delicious, palm-licking good Sweet Pongal. We followed a simple process to eat. First hog Chitraannam till your tongue is on fire, then lick Pongal till you can't eat anymore sweet. Then switch to Chitraannam and continue the process till you have to rush to East Prashanti to answer the best preacher's call. Vicious circle it was, and we jumped right into it.

Rasam: While the above items were given on an on and off basis, the one thing that truly stayed with you through thick and thin, through Sunday and Morning darshan, through haircuts and own baths, was Rasam. And if you didn't like any of the items, you could always raise your plate and wash it down with the slurpy rasam with a loud surrrrrrrrrrrr. Any mention of rasam would be incomplete without 'Top Part' and 'Down Part'. The bucket of rasam would be divided into Top Part and Down Part. The top part was red and spicy and surrrr worthy, whereas the Down Part had pulses, which could be mixed with rice. Rasam was also used to eat chapathi. The rice area of the plate would be filled with rasam, and then the chapathi laid right in the middle till it grew soft. Then layers of the chapathi would be peeled off and devoured.

Mango Pickle
: I don't know if many of you remember this, but it was one of the best parts about Sunday lunches in PS. The pickle would come in plastic buckets, and each of us would be given a dollop full of it, one piece and lots of gravy. This pickle was explosively kaaram and greed could lead you to the Medical Room. I am yet to see a pickle that is as red as the pickle that we were given there. And we came up with our own ways of eating it. We used to lick off all the gravy, and then wash the pickle and chew the piece as if we were 90s rappers chewing on some really expensive gum. I know it sounds kind of gross now, but back then, that was the extent we went to retain the taste of the pickle in our mouths.

Orange Laddoo: This was not technically a food item, but a prasadam. If any of you have watched Meerkat Manor, you would understand the behavioral pattern that occurs when the big brothers are called in to get the vessels of sweets from the Interview Room. This was the only time when no one spoke. When they would step out, all the younger lot would crane up their necks to see what it was. Most of the time it was the laddoo. But there were two types of laddoos. One was the common type, the type given in the South Indian Canteen, which had raisins and cashews in them. But then, there was the other sort, the orange Motichur laddoo that was given by G. Pulla Reddy. I don't know who he is, but if I ever meet him, I shall go and hug him. So, Mr. Reddy's laddoos were totally fabulous. The Orange laddoo was softer and juicier. I don't think I ever took just one sweet. I would invariably take two or more.

Swami's Food: I still don't know what this was. I have only had it once, but the smell of it drove me crazy. This was cooked by Headmistress aunty for Swami daily and was sent to Swami's place. One 7th standard guy was sent to give the food to the Sevadal outside Poornachandra Auditorium, to be given to Swami. I got this 'chance' once, and I remember fighting the urge to open it and check what it is that was actually being cooked. I also tasted it once, it looks a bit like rice mixed in Sambar, but the taste is something I have never, ever had anywhere again. Whenever I see come across the cuisine of any new place, the first thing I do is to check if its the same 'Swami's food', but I have never come across anything similar to heavenly food.

Other foods that came pretty close but lost out:

Bonda kaddi: Made of besan, bonda kaddi was quite a rare occurrence when it came to lunches. However, a lot of people feel that the bonda kaddi can be easily found in places and so does not have the sense of exclusivity that some of the above mentioned items.

Green peas curry: Green peas curry was another favourite of everyone. One thing I remember about the curry is that if you dint eat it immediately, it would form a thin, green layer on top of it. Green peas curry was perhaps the most commonly served food item among those mentioned here, and again, this works against it.

Mealmaker curry: We were in class three or four, and we were serving dinner to the new first standard guys when one of them raised his hands, and asked for 'chicken'. I was shocked out of my wits, but soon realised he was talking about the curry. Mealmaker curries were quite popular among seniors who bullied juniors and it is perhaps the unhappy memories that are associated with the curry that stop me from putting it on to the list.

So there you go, I have given you my list of favourite foods. Go ahead and gimme yours.