The time sneers at us, passing slowly, as we try to recall difficult arithmetic formulas or the laws of Newton. Almost every second, we glance at the clock and it wretched hands are as still as a tree. We exchange looks of exasperation.

Then the much awaited and blissful moment arrives when the bell rings for recess. Our drowsiness vanishes into thin air and we jump off our seats, shoving copies, books and pens hastily in our bags, ignoring the teacher’s sharp voice reminding us to behave ourselves. Grabbing our lunch box, we run, fast as the wind, to join the sea of students into freedom that we have for a little while.

The bell for recess brings the whole school to life and, for the next half an hour or so, students have their best time of a school day

We enter the cafeteria where the air is filled with the aroma of freshly baked pizzas and French fries along with the chattering and shouting of excited students. We sit in our usual spot on the comfortable chairs near the window where a cool breeze welcomes us. We greedily open our lunch boxes and start munching.

Just one tick of a clock and our lunchboxes are empty and clean as though they had just been washed and dried. With our tummies filled to the brim, we pull out a pack of ONO cards and distribute them. After a game full of enjoyment, exclamations, shouts of ‘ONO’ and sometimes a little cheating (wink!), we are out of the cafeteria into the corridors.

We pull innocent faces in front of teachers we pass by. In the staff room, the teachers are busy talking, eating or correcting test copies. At times, we badly want to go inside and command: “Pin drop silence,” but we have no authority to do that.

We dash out into the school grounds. Little children from the junior classes are running around, reminding us of beautiful butterflies fluttering among flowers. Energetic boys are playing with the football and some are playing cricket. The basketball and badminton courts are occupied by teams of girls.

The P.E. teacher stands like an alert soldier, hands on her waist, whistle ready to be blown and those hawk eyes darting around, ready for any sign of rule-breaking.

Sometimes we start playing basketball (maybe the only sport we are good at) or go to the library from where we issue new books (never the informative ones), but most of the time we walk around the ground, gossiping, joking and laughing. We dedicate some of these precious moments for playing pranks on the seniors and it makes me laugh just to imagine the looks on their faces when they are tricked.

Suddenly, there is silence in the school grounds as a shrill sound fills the surroundings. Drowsiness returns as the 30-minute break ends, in what seems like just five minutes. Now, we start walking back towards the classes, moving as steadily as a sick turtle, with the impatient wait of pack-up time now planted in our traumatised hearts.

Published in Dawn, Young World, December 14th, 2019