The school reopened today after the vacations. The children share news about how they spent their holidays. “When did you put mehendi on your palms?” Meena asked Aarti. “At my uncle’s wedding,” Aarti said.
“You must have had a lot of fun at the wedding,” David said. “Oh, yes! I enjoyed the wedding feasts the most,” Aarti said. “At the wedding, we had fun with all my cousins and other relatives eating and doing everything together.” Aarti said,
“ I have an idea,” David said. “Why don’t we have a class party ? Then we can also eat and have fun together. We have parties in our colony whenever there is a festival.
We collect money from everyone for theparty. We cook some dishes and buy other things from the market,” Rehana said.
Reena said, “We don’t need a festival to have a party. Saturday is half-day. Why don’t we plan to have our party then?” Everyone in the class decided what each would bring for the party.
On Saturday the children really enjoyed their party. There was so much variety in food. They played so many games. Everybody was so relaxed. There was singing and dancing too. They decided that they would have such a party again.
A class party is a good opportunity to get children to eat together. Children can also be encouraged to prepare songs, dances and plays for the party.
Sonmoni woke up early and ran to meet her friends Tanvir, Fatima and
Mazani. Today was a special day in Assam. The new rice crop had been
harvested. The village was celebrating the festival of Bihu. The four friends sang and chatted happily as they made the Bhela Ghar.
Sonmoni – Hurry up ! We must finish making the Bhela Ghar of grass and bamboo before the feast tonight. Tanvir Yes, today is Uruka. The whole village will eat together.
Fatima – Have they started preparing the feast? Sonmoni – Yes, everyone has contributed money to buy the bora rice, fire wood, bamboo and Mezi. Hariya and Bhadiya have not given money, but they are helping with all the work.
Fatima – What about the meat, fish and vegetables? Sonmoni – Some people have gone to market to buy all these things. The bora rice has been soaked. The whole village is busy making pitha.
Some people are cooking and some are roasting the sweet potatoes. Some will help to serve the food at night. In the evening, everyone will be served tea and pitha.
Uruka is the evening before Bihu. Bora and Cheva are the common varieties of rice used in Assam. These are ‘sticky’ rice. Encourage children to locate Assam on the map.
Tanvir – I am waiting to eat the cheva rice that we will get at the feast. I really love it. Fatima – How will the cheva rice be prepared?
Sonmoni – They will light a fire and boil the water in the big tao (a big vessel). On this vessel, they will put the Kadhahi containing soaked rice and cover it with banana leaves. After some time, the cheva rice will be cooked and ready to eat.
The Bhela Ghar was ready. The four friends ran off to change their clothes. Soon all the people in the village got together at one place. The women were dressed in yellow. They wore beautiful mekhalachador.
Sonmoni and her friends ran to the Bhela Ghar. The drums started to play and everyone started to sing and dance.
Then they all sat down on the ground in rows and ready to eat. The food was served on banana leaves. Everyone enjoyed the feast.
It is almost one o’clock in the afternoon. The smell of food cooking is coming from the verandah and our stomachs are rumbling. We are so hungry, we are not able to pay attention to the lesson in class.
Ding, Ding, Ding… at last, now the bell rung! All the children ran out and went to wash their hands. Master Moshai sent all the children to the handpump at the corner of the courtyard.
“Anondo, see that everyone washes their hands properly,” he called. After washing our hands, we all stood in queue to take our food. Some had their own boxes, and others had plates.
Then we all sat down in a circle with our food. Before we started to eat, we sang together We play together, we eat together. For the good of everyone, we will always be together.
Today there is bhat-shukto (rice with vegetable and gravy) in our meal. Yesterday, we had luchi and chhola-dal. Outside Didi Moni’s room, a list of food items has been displayed. It tells what we will get every day of the week. Would it not be wonderful if on some days we got an extra treat – maybe something sweet!
There is another interesting thing about lunch time at school. Everyday we change our places in the circle and sit next to a different child. I really like this because I can meet new children and make new friends.
The food was not always very nice. Sometimes, rice was of poor quality, sometimes, it was not properly cooked. Some parents did not like their children to eat such food.
Didi Moni explained to them it was everyone’s duty to make sure that the children got fresh, hot and properly cooked food. Also make sure that every child gets afternoon meal regularly.
The parents also decided to help. Now things are better. We eat fresh, hot and properly cooked food together. The younger children sometimes cannot finish all the food, but my friends and I are sometimes still a little hungry even after we eat.
Now adays many schools give food in school during the day. It was not always like this. When my didi was in the primary school, children did not get afternoon meal in school. Some children come to school in the morning without eating anything. Imagine! Having to study on an empty stomach!
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