The Case of Makhan Singh’s Smelly Lunch

A children’s book about self-confidence, friendship and standing up for yourself.

Chapter 1

Nobody Likes Ugly Mouse Sweaters

Makhan Singh stuck his head out of the front door to figure out how cold it was outside. A chilly wind thwacked his face. He tried to wiggle his nose, but it felt crispy and stiff. That could only mean one thing … it was nose-hair-freezing weather.

That also meant his mom was right—he would have to wear his very warm, but very ugly mustard-coloured sweater vest to school. Makhan was already worried about making new friends on his first day at his new school and wearing an ugly sweater with a mouse on it wasn’t going to help.

“Makhan, did you put on your sweater? Are you ready? Please come and eat your breakfast, it’s almost time to catch the bus,” Makhan’s mom called from the kitchen.

“Coming,” Makhan yelled as he ran up the stairs to throw on the sweater over his shirt. The mouse looked like it was laughing at him.

“Nobody likes ugly mouse sweaters. When my other sweaters get here, I’m never wearing you again, then we’ll see who’s laughing,” Makhan said to the mouse on his sweater.

Two piping hot paranthas glistening with butter and a bowl of yogurt sat on the kitchen table

waiting for him. His 3-year-old sister Parkash tore off a piece of her parantha and offered it to Makhan.

“Thank you, Parkash, look I’ve got my own right here,” he said to her.

She put the torn-off piece into her mouth and munched on it while grinning at him. Makhan thought she was so lucky. Kids in preschool were just tall babies, and babies played with everyone. It was going to be easy for Parkash to make friends.

“Look, Parkash, your brother is going to eat all his yogurt because it’s going to make him big and strong. You’re going to eat some too, aren’t you?” his mom said.

Parkash kept on grinning and eating her parantha without touching her yogurt.

Makhan loved yogurt and buttery paranthas, but today, they made him feel sad. That’s because after he finished eating his last bite, he’d have to take a bus to a school where he had no friends.

“This is a very ugly sweater, Mom, are you sure you didn’t pack any sweaters without mice on them?” Makhan grumbled.

“Makhan, I thought you loved your mouse sweaters, that’s why I packed them in our luggage. What happened?” she asked.

“I just don’t like them anymore, that’s all,” Makhan said.

“Well, the movers are delivering the rest of our things today, so maybe we can find you a no-mouse one to wear for tomorrow. Now, eat your parantha, please. Since it’s a special occasion, I made you a sweet one,” Makhan’s mom said with a wink.

Makhan thought starting grade three at a brand-new school in the middle of November was no kind of special occasion. If anything, he’d call it a scary occasion.

“Good moooorning,” Makhan’s dad sang as he walked into the kitchen.

“Are you kids excited about meeting new friends today?” he asked.

“It feels like there’s a circus in my stomach,” said Makhan.

“Don’t you worry, everyone’s going to think you’re the nicest, smartest boy in the world,” Makhan’s mom said as she hugged him.

Makhan tried to give her a smile, but the circus in Makhan’s stomach didn’t make it easy.

“I’ll drop Parkash off at preschool on my way to work,” his dad said while blowing and slurping on a cup of hot chai.

“Thank you, that’s perfect, then Makhan and I can finish up breakfast and have a nice walk to the bus stop,” Makhan’s mom said.

He felt like a baby having his mom walk him to the bus stop, but he also felt relieved that he wouldn’t have to stand at the stop by himself. At his old school in Toronto, he had a lot of friends to stand with. He even had three best friends.

“I packed you a yummy lunch. I hope it’s ok. Ask your teacher if I should change anything,” said his mom as they put on their shoes and headed to the bus stop.

Makhan wondered if sharing his lunch might help him make friends. His mom was a really good cook and his friends at his old school always loved swapping some lunch with him.

The school bus stop was on the street next to Makhan’s street. As Makhan and his mom turned the corner to walk down bus stop street, they saw a backpack go flying into the air.

“Give me back my backpack!” yelled a girl running toward the backpack with two long pink braids flying behind her.

Just then, a yellow school bus arrived. The circus monkeys in Makhan’s stomach started doing cartwheels.

“Have a good day at school, my most beautiful boy,” his mom yelled as he lined up to get on the bus.

“Haha, beautiful boy,” someone laughed.

“Look at that mouse,” yelled someone else.

Makhan felt his face get hot as he walked up the steps of the bus.

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