Lunch at HPS

Well, looks like HPS is the flavor of the month! But lunch was such an integral part of life at HPS and memories from those years that I had to write about it!

Again, this was probably the only school during that time that offered lunch to its students. There was this huge dining building that had a number of levels and halls that had long dining tables with benches on either side. Students would troop in after the last pre-lunch class had finished.

At the appointed time, the doors would open and we would go in and take our places. Places were fixed. Once everyone was in, a bell would be rung and a one line prayer recited. All the students would then sit and eat. After about 15 or 20 minutes, another bell and another prayer would signal the end of lunch. Of course, people who hadn't finished could continue.

Lunch was simple and tasty. There was a fixed menu for every day of the week.

On Monday, they served rice, sambar, channa, curd and bread. For desert, most of the time, there would be the humble banana. Sometimes this would be replaced with a guava or a sweet lime. In the last few years of my schooling, we would sometimes get a coconut sweet instead.

Tuesdays were one of my favorite days. We got rice, sambar, rajma, a dry mixed vegetable curry, bread, curd and papads. The rajma was really great. Wednesdays would be rice, sambar, bread, chutney and ghee.

Thursdays would be special for no particular reason. We would get a pulao with sambar and a kurma curry, papad and curd. This was the only day when no bread would be served. The mango pickle that was served went really well with the pulao.

Fridays were pretty dull. Then the cutlet happened. When I was in Class 7 (or was it 8?), they introduced the cutlet on Fridays. Rice, sambar and bread were the other items on the menu. But the cutlet took the cake. It became such a rage that people would wait the whole week to get their hands on the cutlet.

Unofficial reports suggest that the number of people not attending school on Fridays dropped significantly after the cutlet was introduced.

The problem was that each student was officially allowed only one cutlet. In fact, one cutlet would be placed on each plate even before the students came in. And in case someone at the dining table was absent that day, all eyes would be on his/her cutlet. Once the bell rang and the prayer was said, there would be a race to grab that orphaned cutlet!

Imagine the logistical challenges of preparing a meal for almost 3000 people everyday. The staff did an amazing job of maintaining the taste and the quality. Well, there were one off incidents but by and large, I think they did a great job.

For many years after leaving school, I continued to miss the lunches at HPS.