School’s out.

So my time at Lion. Dr.E.N.P’s Akshaya Vidyalaya Group of Institutions is now over. I have departed from that place where teachers happily dry their most intimate laundry in full sight of the pupils. And I’ve moved to Madurai. But first…

The power-cut.

There was a power-cut very suddenly one evening, and it being the countryside, the building was absolutely pitch black. Grabbing a Shabbat candle (my colleagues used more conventional torches!) I sallied forth to find the security guard at the gate, having noticed that every other part of the school still had electricity!

He directed me to the supervisor of the hostel, who didn’t really follow my mime, though did rather take to the word ‘kaput’ and spent the next few minutes gesturing huge explosions, saying, “Kaput!” and laughing to himself. Eventually the school electrician was called out and got it all fixed. So that’s OK then.

Time for games.

Since I was leaving, I decided to bring a touch of frivolity to English lessons and play some games. Blackboard Pictionary generally went well… at least until one girl decided, entirely of her own volition, to draw ‘deforestation’ by means of a weeping tree being hacked to pieces by an axe-wielding woodsman in a skirt. I think it was probably a bit too abstract, though.

Hangman also went well, up to a point. They didn’t like the urgency of the gallows, so just played it guessing letters. This led to some complaints (fully upheld!) such as, “Sir, he is just saying the whole alphabet.”

One of them chose the word ‘Peterson’ which kept the entire class baffled for some time. Another was very frustrated when I failed to get K _ _ _ _ _ L, eventually revealing that it was actually my name, Kabriel. With more conventional words, the kids all guessed them with an astonishing near-psychic ability. E _ _ _ _ _ _ _ was unmasked as elephant immediately, as was _ _ _ E R as tiger. Weird!

A fond farwell.

The time came for me to bid everyone goodbye. The boys made me write out my contact details umpteen times, plus, “Please write what you think of my character.” Hopefully they haven’t yet noticed that I wrote more or less the same reference for the whole lot of them!

The Principal presented me with a book of Hindu wisdom, including such gems as, “Better to walk than to ride to battle on an uneducated horse,” inscribed to dear son Gabriel. Our conversation then developed into a session of mutual modesty, me insisting that it had been a privilege to be there, and her insisting that “the school will feel your departure for some time.” Finally, she blessed me, asking that “the gods may shower upon you all that you need,” (hope that wasn’t a hint!) and I then left the education sector.

Although later that evening, I received a call on my mobile from Titus, one of the children who I somehow ended up giving my number to. He almost immediately declared, “Now I pass you to my father,” and I then found myself exchanging vague pleasantries and intelligence about English life with a middle-aged Indian I’d never seen or heard of before. How do I get myself into these situations?

The Tiger Economy; or, ATMs Close at Night

I took a weekend trip to Kanyakumari, the town at the very southern pointy bit of India (that’s the technical term for it). It was all very nice, very photogenic. Lovely. But the problem was withdrawing money after dusk. The first of the town’s three ATMs was attended by a little grubby man. I don’t know why ATMs are attended, since that seems to undermine the ‘A’ part of the title, but he was holding a sign saying, “No translations.” Not relishing the prospect of fumbling through a Tamil cash withdrawal, I moved on to the second machine, which was closed.

The third one was of an old-fashioned design that didn’t accept Chip+PIN cards, so I moved back to the first one, steeling myself to cope with the language barrier. After some experimentation, I found that the little man’s sign should have read, “No transactions.”

The abject failure of this evening expedition was offset for myself and my fellow seekers of Rupees by the wonderful signs all along the road, which included, “All-Women’s Police Station,” “Office of the Circle Inspector of Police,” (what?!) “Coconut Development Board,” and, rather disturbingly on only one restaurant out of many, “We have no child labours.”

Also, while I’m on the subject, “My Women’s Horlicks: for confident, multi-tasking women,” “Institute of Paramedical Secience [sic],” “M. Kamatchi, Government Pleader,” “Chappals should be kept in the specified place only,” (eh?!), and several more which can be better depicted by photographs.

That’s all for now.

I’m now starting my new life as a journalist with the Madurai Messenger, and have so far interviewed a bone-setter, who was (in simple terms) a barbaric lunatic. But more on that soon.

Please do make nice comments, and ensure that you don’t put your chappals anywhere you shouldn’t!

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3 Responses to School’s out.

  1. shirley jacobs says:

    “fascinating” why did you give everyone your mobile no? might have been a bit of a mistake!

  2. Ben says:

    Awww damn, I left my chappals on the roof. I’m sure that’s somewhere I shouldn’t put them

  3. Sandra Webber says:

    So fantastic “My Women’s Horlicks: for confident, multi-tasking women” – that’s me!

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