BENGALURU: The school lunch box: such an integral part of one’s childhood. A small component of your school bag that said so much about you, decided your position in the classroom’s social hierarchy and a wonderful bargaining chip, should the contents be just right.
Of course, I never really appreciated the effort that went in to waking up and packing a dabba until I had to do it for my own kids. All the times I wrinkled my nose at curd rice-vadu maanga or idli-podi as a child, came back to bite me in the ass as I struggled to come up with something better than a cheese sandwich.
Which is why in their current school, I have signed up both my boys for a meal plan. Every day they enjoy a varied spread of hot food at breakfast and lunch and I enjoy my morning cup of coffee.
I get it, a beautiful, thoughtfully packed lunch box is this giant, neon symbol of maternal love. But sometimes, moms, we take it way too far.
Like a recent NPR article about the craze for Kyaraben in Japan. No, no Kyaraben isn’t an Aunty-ji from Vadodara making waves with her dhokla in downtown Tokyo. Kyaraben is the art of preparing elaborate bento lunches: sushi is fashioned to look like adorable farm animals, pork is turned in to Pokemon characters and even famous people’s faces. Mothers in Japan, under immense pressure from their children, are attending classes to learn how to make these mini masterpieces and are spending as much as 90 minutes every morning to create these boxes. 90 minutes of time that could be spent sleeping in, exercising (ha! Who am I kidding?), enjoying coffee, actually, just SLEEPING is now being spent making a Pikachu faced pie that will be admired for all of three seconds before being shoved down the gullet of a greasy seven-year-old.
If my kids ever came to me and said, hey can you make this dosa look like Doraemon I would say NO. Dosas are meant to be circles, or in my case irregular shaped objects, not Doraemon.
Apart from the obvious questions about why mothers think this is a good way to spend their mornings, it also makes me wonder: are we scared to say NO to our kids? Are we scared to tell them that it’s ok to be the only one, or one of few who don’t have something that every one else has? Keeping up with the Joneses begins with an artisanal, hand-crafted lunch box but will soon escalate in to demands for outlandish birthday parties and the latest smartphone. Are we scared to tell them, actually, we weren’t put on earth to cater to their every whim and fancy?
Last month my son asked if I could pack a lunch to school for him. He said he was bored of what was being served. I told him a) it was OK to be bored b) I didn’t want to c) There was no c. And you know what? The sky didn’t fall. He doesn’t hate me. And I get an extra hour to exercise every morning. If lying down with your eyes closed is a form of weight loss.