A shortened school day meant a shortened lunch break of about half an hour. Most students preferred to hang out in the shaded assembly area and eat their lunch. Maybe play chess or indulge in a game or two of carrom. But not so for a handful whose sanity and testosterone were severely on the wrong end of the scale. That wild bunch still preferred to play ball under the sun, only to return to class drenched as if they were just ordered out of the swimming pool driveway folding bollards.
Two periods after lunch was all it took to finish the day off. The electric bell which sounded after each period was added a little extra time with two short bursts at the end to signify the death of another school day. That sent the students scurrying out from the main gate like a marauding army, much like angry fire ants marching out of a disturbed anthill. For the boys, the weapon of choice would invariably be the ubiquitous wooden ruler, with which they engaged each other in fencing. Reincarnating the knights of old, they fought fiercely for the honor of some unknown fair maiden.
The prolonged shriek of the electric bell had a Pavlovian response from the ladies club. They simply sprang to their feet coaxing their limbs to ready for action. Then spreading out like seasoned cowboys on imaginary saddles, they concentrated on lassoing the colts they gave birth to. An orderly chaos erupted. Though each of the boys ran helter-skelter, as a group, they nicely dovetailed towards the exit, of course pushing and shoving on their way out. The collective chatter rent the air with a deafening roar. The boys are making their presence felt.
Once snared, the colts were pulled aside from the on rushing herd. Bottles of fluid and snacks materialized from nowhere, to be forced into the disagreeably struggling mouths. The colts were being hydrated for the Calcutta Derby. Next, straw and cloth hats get slammed on their little heads. So far the efficiency and economy of movement would put any army drill sergeant to shame. Now it is time to race to the finishing post, or rather the bus stand, dodging the umbrella canopies and bared wooden scimitars along the way.
Grabbing a hand, the mom leads the way out with her kid in tow. As usual, junior would be gazing the wrong way with no demonstrated intent of keeping up with mommy’s pace or direction. A swift jerk of the arm holding the child’s hand was all it took for course correction in that sea of human traffic. Her goal was now to get on board the first bus out. Her prime concern was not to step on tar melting on the road under the summer sun, lest she is forced to leave the imprinted slipper behind.