In part one I told you all about whistlers.
In this second and final part, I’ll tell you about the top layer, doublers, and lion sharers in that order. I’ll also talk about dustbins, even though they don’t appear in the title.
We’ve already established that food plays a very huge role in a high school teen’s life. It’s actually a form of currency. You can use food to purchase other products from fellow students.
With whistling, it was a matter of choice, or rather, one’s ability to buy loaves, chapatis and any other food to accompany the strong tea. This part of my story will involve only school food.
Everyone found themselves in the dining hall, whether they liked it or not. Even the most well off students, who gave the DH a wide berth whenever “inferior” food like beans and porridge was being served, could not resist making an appearance on the days meat was on the menu.
Now, schools have a hierarchy. The Principal is at the top, obviously. Below him we have the deputy principal, then various teachers. Prefects usually come next in the hierarchy, with the school captain at the top, then his deputy, then other prefects.
Among “ordinary” students, the final year ones are the most respected, with the first-year students coming last. This hierarchy was observed even at the dining hall. The school captain and other prefects would be served first.
This simply means that not only would they receive food while it was still hot, they would also get to pick the choicest parts. This is what top layer referred to. Their tea would have lots of milk, and their food would have top soup, with visible cooking oil floating at the top.
Their porridge would be the best. If you became a prefect, then your life became very comfortable, as far as food went.
Once the prefects were served, and the rest of the student population started appearing at the DH, the drama began. Final year students were mostly busy studying for their final exams, so they wanted to eat as fast as possible and go back to class.
Most acted like eating was a big inconvenience. If only they could pay someone to eat on their behalf and still feel full!! The first, and to some extent, second-year students were the most “idle”, in the sense that they had a lot of time.
So most shenanigans at the DH involved them. You wouldn’t believe the extent to which some students went just to get more food.
There were doublers, students who specialised in receiving double portions of food. Doubling was an art, and doublers were the most creative of them all. It was also a big offence.
Because the time spent taking food was limited, the doubler had to be very efficient. He had to work with military precision.
We kept our plates and cups in the dorms and retrieved them before going to the DH. By the way, before being served food, one had to be presentable, in terms of grooming. Your hair had to be combed, uniform clean and shoes polished. So before picking plates and spoons and cups, the dorm would be a hive of activity, with people wearing clean shirts, others borrowing shoe brushes, etc.
Doublers saved time by keeping their plates, spoons, cups, shoe brushes and other assorted items in their class desk. They would groom just before the final lesson ended. This means immediately the bell for lunch break or supper rang, they would be the very first in line.
Since they were also very fast eaters, they would be done with the first portion while the other students were still in the queue. They would then go to the dorm, wash their utensils and change their appearance.
This was surprisingly easy to achieve. If the doubler first had a sweater on, he would take it off, then go for his second portion wearing only a shirt. The cooks once in a while caught the most notorious ones, but most times they got away with it.
Finally, there were the lion sharers. These were simply the students who appeared at the DH last. This was a strategic move because food was in plenty. In fact, the leftovers were taken to the school farm and fed to pigs.
So if you were among the very last students to come for food, chances are the cooks would give you a very large portion of food, since there was still so much remaining. This portion was referred to as the lion’s share.
Lion sharers were not exactly breaking any laws, because there had to be a last person at the queue anyway. But over time, some students became notorious for intentionally going late to the dining hall just so they could receive this portion. In some instances, doublers were also lion sharers!!
This is because they would rush to the DH for their first portion, but by the time they arrived for the second portion, they’d have to join the back of the queue. For this reason, lion sharers were viewed with suspicion because chances were high that they were doublers.
Before I forget, I promised to talk about dustbins. Dustbin was the unofficial name for a student who had a huge appetite but was neither a doubler nor a lion sharer.
So if any student got full, and still had some food remaining on his plate, instead of throwing the food into the kitchen dustbin (huge plastic ones placed just outside the DH), he would simply dump it onto the student dustbin’s plate.
This did not require the dustbin’s permission, everyone knew he would never say no to food. Being a dustbin made one a bit of a pariah, at least inside the dining hall, but most did not care as long as they ate.
So there you have it. I hope you’re now conversant with the terms top layer, dustbin, whistling, doubling and lion sharing.
Whenever you meet a respected member of society, like a doctor, engineer, priest or businessperson, just know at the back of your mind that once upon a time they could have been notorious whistlers, doublers, lion sharers or even dustbins!!