The lunch-bell peals. Pens and pencils are hurriedly pushed into their cases. Files click shut, satchels snap and chairs desks get dragged aside. Scuffling feet race towards the canteen.
The early birds are already seated on the benches, seriously eating away. An appetizing blend of aroma floats about the canteen, but it is the strong smell of hot mee soup that pulls a large crowd to queue in front of its stall. The others discouraged by the long queue head to other stalls after casting wishful glances at the huge steaming pot of hot soup.
On the other side of the stall, helpers work feverishly to serve these hungry mouths. Steaming bowls of soup, fried rice, fried chicken and sandwiches are passed in exchange for coins that are tossed into tinkling money baskets. The change from notes is thrust into ready palms that quickly pocket the jingling coins.
The canteen grows crowded. Orders are shouted above the constant drone of busy hungry people. Someone starts banging the automatic drink dispenser. Finally, something clicks, and his frustrated bangs are rewarded with a glass of thirst quenching drink.
People keep weaving their way through the crowd, cautiously carrying bowls of soup or plates of hot curry. Some push through the crowd and get yelled at. The benches are crowded and there is not a vacant seat left, so some people wait for others to finish their food. The benches are filled with all kinds of people. Some literally plough through their food, slurping away. Others eat slowly, licking every mouthful. Yet others sit very complacently with their home cooked packets of “nasi bungkus” or home-made sandwich loaves. Then there are the perpetual bookworms with a fork in their right hands and a book propped up in the left. The weight watchers determinedly sit in a corner nibbling at their crackers, sipping calorie free drinks and chatter and gossip to pass the time. Some of them group together and sing the latest hit tune with the throbbing beats blaring out of mini cassette players. Occasionally a small group gathers in a corner to try to recapture childhood thrills in a game of “chapteh” or marbles. These games, however, do not last long as they are promptly booed at by the onlookers who assume they are a “mature” lot. At the other corner hot debates on classroom projects and homework assignments take place as usual.
The bell peals again to signal that the lunch break is over. Stomachs belch, deters sigh with relief, the bookworm who was so engrossed in his notes suddenly rushes to get himself a quick drink. The crowd disperses immediately back to the classrooms. A cat and a few birds appear quickly to scavenge the chicken and fish bones and crumbs felt behind on the table after yet another regular lunch break at school.”