Victoria and the Seven Year Old

“If you go to Victoria, check out the clock-tower. It’s big, beautiful and the pride of Seychelles,” everyone in Seychelles had told us. Victoria was the capital city of Seychelles. Whenever we went to Victoria, we’d usually go early to get money exchanged. The bank would have limited exchange currency and it’d get over if you were slightly late.

So we took all the precautions necessary.
From my side; that included a magnetic chess board, a pack of cards, a book, earphones, and loading lots of songs into my mom’s phone. It could be a four-hour wait at times; a boy had to go prepared.

When we first went to Victoria, we stopped at the bank. It was probably a little before five in the morning and people were already waiting in line. I took out my magnetic chess board and started playing chess with my dad. A few minutes later, we heard a chime and looked around for the source of the sound.

And there it was; right next to the bank, in the middle of the crossroads. We’d mistaken it for a normal clock when we came in, but that was apparently the famous Clock Tower, just five meters up from the ground.

Expectations

That is the famous Clock Tower? We have larger clock-towers in villages in India,’ my dad said, shaking his head in disbelief. I sniggered, partly because what he said was funny and partly because I’d stolen his queen while he wasn’t looking.

After our work at the bank was done, we roamed around and saw the city life of Seychelles. I remember falling in love with pizza in Victoria at this restaurant called “The Pirates Arms”.

On the drive back home, my mom pointed to a beautiful beach as it rolled past us. I wondered what would happen if Seychellois came to India and we showed them our beaches in Goa.
That is the famous Calangute beach?’ they’d say, ‘we have better beaches outside our homes in Seychelles.’

It was only natural that we glorified the things we had, even if they weren’t the best or the most beautiful. Soon, I realized that this principle applied to the way people worked too. People who weren’t good at what they did would often also lack the skills necessary to identify that they were bad at it.

Victoria taught me to look beyond clock-towers and beaches. It showed me how I could delve into the perspectives and opinions of people instead.

It also taught me not to steal the queen from a chessboard. My father ended up winning anyway.

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Camp and the Seven Year Old (Part 2)

If you’re coming from Part 1, continue reading.
If you haven’t read part one, here it is!

So, the Nokia phone lasted me the entire week, obviously, but it died when I got off the bus that was taking me back home. More on that later.

On the fourth day of camp, a huge windstorm started and clothes on the clothes-line were flying everywhere. Except for mine of course – because I’d decided to not wash them and I was storing the sweaty and used ones in a big blue plastic bag.

I distinctly remember this guy running out of a washroom with a soap in his hand, holding the railing of the corridor and struggling to walk towards our room, because the wind was insane. I’m not exaggerating, it was actually a storm. He got into the room safely.
We later found out that everyone’s clothes had ended up on one side of the camp and were all muddy and wet. I was proud of myself for being smart enough to not wash my clothes then.

On the second last day of camp, we had a “Sports Day” and we paired up with people and had fun. I remember running in my first three-legged race and winning at lemon-spoon and sucking at football, as usual. I finally made some friends that evening and that felt weird because the camp was going to be over the next day.

The next morning, we packed all our stuff up, got ready and climbed aboard the bus that was to take us back home. When we reached my school, I got off along with a few other people.

I was supposed to call my dad so he could send a taxi to get me, but I wanted to pee real bad and my phone was dead. Home was a 15-minute walk, so I trudged back home with my luggage – a black bag that originally had all my stuff in it and a blue plastic bag that contained all my used, sweaty clothes now. The black bag was practically empty.

Once I was at the door, I banged on it a few times. Apparently, my mom had gone for a bath. I held my pee, shifting from foot to foot, shouting for her to open the door.

She came out after what felt like an eternity and gave me a quick hug. Too “pee-occupied” for all this emotional stuff, I ran inside. “My bathroom!” I shouted as I closed the door behind me and had the best pee in seven days. Judge me all you want, but you know what that feels like too.

the_bathroom

When I walked back outside, I could smell the stench of sweat and saw my mother’s disgusted face.

‘What is this?’ she asked, pointing at the now open blue plastic bag.
‘Clothes I didn’t wash because they wouldn’t dry properly enough,’ I replied cheerfully.
‘And you just – kept them like that?’
‘Yep’, I said, walking into my room and flopping onto the bed.

I woke up to the sound of the washing machine whirring in the distance and the smell of home cooked food.

I never went to a camp again.


[Check out all my previous adventures in Seychelles here]

Camp and the Seven Year Old (Part 1)

Once, I thought it would be a good idea to go to this vacation camp in Seychelles. It was one of those week-long camps where you have games, activities, and stuff like that. The “camp” was in a huge school right next to the beach.

I’d never really stayed without my mom for more than a day or two before this but I was pretty confident in my ability to pull off an entire week alone.

I ended up crying on the first night and told everyone that “My eyes water when I remove my glasses.”
And yes, they believed me.

glass_power

I hope they believed me.
Let’s just pretend they believed me.

The worst part about camp was that you had to wash your own clothes. I had three underpants and I was supposed to wash them after a day or two. Now, since it rained a little almost every evening in Seychelles (and since I was afraid of seeing my underwear get stolen), I resorted to keeping my underwear super dry and rotated it carefully for the entire week.

the_planning

 

Now that I think about it, why would anyone have stolen my underpants? But seven-year-olds are weird, so maybe they could’ve.

If you think that’s gross, you should stop reading, because it gets worse.

One day, while I was climbing down the stairs to go for dinner (which was at 6pm by the way), I saw that everyone was just running past this kid sitting on the stairs. As I approached him, I heard the words, “Poop” and “Sitting in his poop,” flying around.

And sure enough, there was this dude sitting on the stairs with a stench around him that’d have made cow dung feel bad. The next thing I remember was running down the stairs as fast as I could.

I did not have dinner that evening.

The part that I enjoyed the most at camp was folding the sheets in the morning. Now, that might seem weird, but I guess I was a clean freak back then (says the dude who rotated his underwear for the entire week).

I had a Nokia phone with me, and it was supposed to last me an entire week on a full charge. On the second night, my mom called me up, and she was like, “Hi! Looks like you aren’t missing us at all!”

And I, choking and all teary-eyed, just managed a weak, “Yeah,” and cut the call. All the kids around me were apparently waiting for me to cry, so I removed my glasses, and said, “See? Tears come out instantly when I remove my glasses!”


Did the Nokia phone last me the entire week? Did I have any more underwear predicaments?

Part Two

[Check out all my previous adventures in Seychelles here]

Surprises and the Seven year old

I had a thing for surprising people, no matter what the occasion was.

Won an award at school?
“Surprise!”
Got a bruise on my knee?
“Mom, guess what I have on my knee!”
Lost my stationery pouch?
“Guess what I lost today!”

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It didn’t have to be something good. As far as I was concerned, anything that got people thinking and wondering about the smallest of things was a surprise.

After school, I’d usually walk back home, go to the back of the house, retrieve a key from underneath a potted plant and go inside. No one was at home then.

One particular day however, my sister was home. As I walked up the slope to my house, I realized that the bedroom window (which had no barricades) was open. My sister was in the living room, reading a book, too involved to see me standing outside the glass door.

The plan thus formed was to surprise (and scare) her since I’d come back home a little earlier. So I hoisted myself onto the window ledge, slipped my feet into the bedroom and kept my schoolbag on the floor. I tiptoed towards the door, stifling my giggles as I turned the door handle and peered outside. I couldn’t see much.

I opened the door completely and stepped outside, ready to say “Boo!”
There she was, with a cricket bat raised in her hand. She’d seen the door handle turn and she’d picked up a cricket bat, waiting for the “unknown” to walk outside the door so she could slam the bat down on their head.

I screamed, she shouted and we both just stood there for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. If she hadn’t looked twice before making a decision, I’d probably be dead. Luckily enough, she didn’t hit me.

“Are you absolutely crazy?” she shouted.
“I was trying to su-surprise you,” I whispered.
She glared at me for a few seconds and composed herself. Then she hugged me, realizing how stupid I was.

In the evening after my parents got back home, there was a huge discussion about how the maid had left the window open and how my sister should’ve closed it, followed by how I should always think twice before pulling off a “surprise”.

Scared out of my wits after that, I did the only logical thing I could think of doing.

I hid the cricket bat.


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Check out my next adventure in Seychelles here

Shoes and the Seven Year Old

Throughout school in Seychelles, I wore tons of weird shoes. From pointy, black shiny ones to brown, loose flat ones. Everyone else usually just wore sandals. Me? I had certain “standards” to maintain as a kid. So for the first year of school I wore the spick and span black shoes that I had bought in India.

When they wore out, I got a pair of weird brown shoes. They were a little too large for my feet, a little too loose to play football in and a little too much like a grown man’s shoes. And although I was proud of them when I got them, things turned around pretty quickly when I got to school on the first day of wearing them.

The shoes spelled out the perfect recipe for disaster. Football would usually consist more of flying shoes than the actual ball, and eventually even the heftiest of attackers would stay away from me for fear of getting “the boot”.

JustLegs
That wasn’t all. I would be the “barefoot” runner in running competitions, since my shoes would fly off at odd angles. The only good thing it did was distract the other runners just long enough for me to finish ahead of others. (Pro strategy if you ask me).

Seychelles was a sandy island. You could be on top of a mountain, and sand would still be there. It was no surprise then that the first ritual after coming home was removing sand from my shoes. So, I decided to throw away my “standards” (and my shoes) and switch to sandals instead after they wore out.

But the shoes weren’t done with me yet. A few people from Seychelles national TV were filming on our school grounds for some documentary. We were playing a football match, with me kicking my legs all over the place in a frantic attempt to clear the ball from the defensive area.

The camera could’ve captured any of a hundred thousand things about me, but when the documentary finally aired, there I was – not my face or my body – but my legs and my flying shoes. Of course, I didn’t know then that they were filming for a documentary and I had no clue when it would air, so I didn’t watch it.

Nonetheless I was a sensation in school the day after it aired. I felt like Harry Potter because I had no clue why I was famous.
“We saw your shoes on TV,” someone told me.
“My shoes?” I asked.
“Yeah, you were kicking wildly in the air and then the scene changed.”
So I finally became the “Shoe guy” for everybody.

ShoeGuy

 

That was the end of the brown shoes. I put them in the shoe cupboard and refused to wear them, no matter what happened. That was followed by a huge discussion at home about how I shouldn’t let the opinions of others affect who I am (which ended with me sulking and firmly deciding that I didn’t want those shoes after all).

For the next few weeks, I was the “Shoe guy” who wore sandals to school. Come to think of it, it could’ve stayed that way for years, if it hadn’t been for a guy who started wearing the most fluorescent pink shoes one could buy.
I gladly handed over the title of “Shoe guy” to him, and stepped back to my old tag of “Malabar” (which meant Indian in the Kreol language).

Of course, nothing really ends on the perfect note and I got teased for many other things. But what I learned was, if you were weird, you weren’t accepted but you could still be famous even if you weren’t accepted but you could easily lose all that infamy if someone did something that was more embarrassing.

Since that day, whenever I did anything embarrassing, I just pointed out someone famous who had done it worse. That way, I would be a style statement.  As the years passed, I erased all the “Xyz guy” tags, until I just became the “guy”.

And trust me, life was much easier.


[Check out my further adventures in Seychelles here]

Football and the seven year old

I was clumsy as a kid. Skinny legs, short height, round spectacles and an undying obsession for books. Seychelles wasn’t exactly the place you wanted to be if you were any of those things. Seychelles was a place to play football, swim, run and dance – everything I absolutely sucked at.
When it came to football, the usual order of things was like this:

  1.  Go into the school ground during lunch
  2.  Get picked last during team creation
  3.  Screw up in the most horrendous of ways (or better, make a self-goal)
  4.  Resort to reading during lunch-times
  5.  Feel bad about not being any good and repeating step 1 …

angryfoot
As if that wasn’t enough, the teachers would stand up for me and help me out whenever I had a problem (since I was new and foreign and didn’t know Créole at all). That alienated me even more.

Sometimes, I’d feel like bringing a cricket bat and ball and showing everyone that I could play cricket twice as better as they played football, but I was half afraid of someone stealing the bat, and half afraid of someone hitting me on the head with it.

So I decided to play football in the least destructive of ways. I would stay back near the goalkeeper, swing my legs at the passing attacker (usually miss) and pretend to have tried really really hard by showing the required amount of emotion. Watching Bollywood movies helped a lot with the acting part.footdrama
That served my purpose and I began getting picked more often during team creation (on the premise that I would at least try).
Life would have been all nice and peachy if it hadn’t been for a particularly aggressive kid on the opposite team. He would fly in with the football, shove me aside and score his goals. Who was going to spot a skinny little Indian lying in the dust anyways? Tick-tock.

Then began the days of watching football matches on TV. Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea. People watched successful goals. I watched failed goals. I watched why they failed. I learned.

On a fateful day, I put my logic to use and resorted to swerving out of his way, going behind him and diving with my legs forward to tackle him.

When it failed the first time, I tried again, faster, sneakier, tighter. Before long, I had blocked two definite goals and turned from a trier to a performer.
Of course, it didn’t always work, and I never had the potential to defend any more than a fellow seven year old’s tactics, but I did learn not to absolutely suck at football.

Eventually I came to the realization that just brute force wouldn’t get you anywhere in the world. No matter how hefty and strong the attacker was, all that mattered was reading his movements.

Things weren’t all peachy and fun after that either, because nothing ever ends with “and everything was fine“. There was the “high jump” incident and the “guava stealing” incident. There was also that one time I came on Seychelles national TV ‘by mistake’ (and everyone except me saw the footage, of course). But that’s a story for next time.

[Continue reading further adventures…]

Aliens and the seven year old

Discovery channel used to have this show on “Close alien encounters”. Being a space freak and having the usual curiosity of a seven year old, I used to watch these episodes with bated breath and half-closed eyes.
Although the show would be pretty enjoyable, sleeping alone at night would usually mean pulling the blanket over and pretending to be in a huge orb of “unkidnappable” steel. I was sure I would be safe, because people in the show who got abducted usually lived in some remote area or were alone at the time of being abducted.

 

AlienLogic
So everything was fine until that one freaky day when they showed the aliens abducting a kid of my age, right from her bedroom in a city. Then all hell broke loose.
I’d spend half the night staring at the curtains for the tiniest hint of light (which meant that a spaceship was landing) or glancing below my bed to see if there were fingers trying to pull me down. I’d eventually fall asleep and wake up cursing myself for not being more attentive.

After I fell asleep in class a couple times and got scolded, I decided to stop watching the show. After a few weeks, I’d forgotten all about it. At least I thought so.
‘No one has really seen aliens,’ mom told me when I asked her about it.
‘Yeah, that’s all made up stories,’ I chirruped.
And aliens always went to America anyways.

On an eventful night, just as I was about to fall asleep, I saw some lights and heard a rattling noise. I pushed myself against the back of the bed and waited. In the show, the aliens would sedate the people before taking them away. I pulled out a pencil and paper from the nearest drawer and wrote down “Aliens” on it as fast as I could. At least my parents would know what happened.

The light became stronger and stronger and I decided I had to scream.
So there I was, screaming at the top of my voice. My father rushed out from his room and opened the door with panicky hands.
‘What happened?’ he shouted.
The lights outside dimmed suddenly.
‘Outside!’ I whispered.

My dad parted open the curtains. A pickup van was parking itself on the lawn next to the house, making an awful lot of noise.
‘Are you okay?’ he asked me, closing the curtains.
‘Of course, of course!’ I croaked, pulling the blanket over my head again.

The aliens had deceived me this time by changing their spaceship into a van. Whatever it was, I now knew the trick to keeping them away.

I just had to call dad.

[Continue reading further adventures…]