Fun and Quiz at the book fair

When we saw the ad for the book fair to be held this week in Coimbatorewe were very happy. Only because we have got our new bookshelves (a DIY project which gave us immense pleasure as this is our first DIY project for furniture; in the UK we were living in fully furnished places so never had a chance) and have arranged all our shipped books and games and we’re eager to add more to the collection. Little did we know that our trip to the book fair will entail more than just that.

My nieces decided to join us at the destination, but as usual, we were a bit early so we decided to head in and scout the place for children’s books before my nieces arrived. But before we could enter the fair hall we were accosted by a gentleman who was encouraging people to take part in a book quiz that was happening in a hall to the left of the entrance. He guided us to the place and gave us our quiz form (to fill in the answers and our team name and our names etc. each team can have a max of 2 members) and they went about explaining the rules after a few more minutes of guiding people to join as there weren’t too many folks around. We had around 10 teams or so, I think and they promptly started the quiz. The first round was a prelims round. There were 20 questions out of which 5 questions were supposed to be hard in order to eliminate ties. These questions were usually posed to college students as part of their competitions so they informed us that some of the questions might be too hard for us and not get discouraged by them. If we get through the prelims we would enter the finals which included 6 teams and there were prizes in the form of book coupons (to the whole team) to be reimbursed in the book fair for all people who participate in the finals round (the first prize was for 4000 Rs, second prize was 3000 Rs, third prize was 2000 Rs, and the rest three teams got 1000 Rs for participation and getting through to the finals).

Mr M and I were in only for fun and as we watch various quiz programmes we were eager to know the answers to the questions more so than winning any place and by far we were one of the two teams with an average age beyond 40. The first question was a stinker but the second one was about Agatha Christie’s books. That perked us up 🙂 My love for all novels by Sujatha (a Tamil writer) and Kalki (another prominent Tamil writer) helped me with those stinky tough questions and we got 2/5 right. As for the rest, one was based on Fyodor Dostoevsky books (which I knew of) and Mr M’s classical book knowledge came in handy for a few of the other questions. All in all, we thought we had almost 7 correct, but weren’t sure. It was almost 45 mins by the time all the questions were done. We had to wait for the results and even though we were confident we didn’t do that well, we wanted to know the answers so we waited. Funnily, when the answers were discussed, we found that we score 9/20 which wasn’t bad and we kicked ourselves for a couple more answers. But most funnily we got through to the finals round too. Our correct answers to two tiebreakers came through for us it seems. Our nieces hadn’t arrived yet and we weren’t sure what to do about the fact that we would be stuck with the quiz for much longer than we anticipated 😀 Having some far, we decided to see it through.

The finals round was the worse for us. We were surrounded by young college students but thankfully we had one team who was of similar age to ours (the only other non-college team). There were 5 rounds with 6 questions each and it was based on who answered the previous question and accordingly the next question would be posed to the team after them. That disadvantaged us as we either ended up with the toughest questions as the ones that we knew were answered by the brilliant youngsters next to us. Until round-4 we were yet to score any points and the other team of non-college students had answered only 1 question right by then. Finally, Stieg Larsson’s book came through for us during the round-4 and we answered our only question in the finals. My nieces who had joined us halfway through were encouraging us in spite of our lack of scores. By that time, it was all fun and we knew that the college students had better knowledge of books (especially about Indian authors, Tamil authors, whom we haven’t had any recent knowledge of, and also about the books that were made into movies recently).

My nieces also answered one question that was posed to the audience towards the end of round-4 which gave them immense pleasure. When we finally finished all rounds, we were glad to have scored 1 point and a guaranteed 1000 Rs gift coupon to spend at the book fair. Definitely not a bad day of work 😀 but we ended up spending almost 2 hours and more just in that one room. Once the gift coupons were distributed, we thanked and congratulated everyone and made our way to the book stalls. My eldest niece got herself an Amar Chitra Katha book out of our winnings. She, like me, loves those books. We ended up spending (after a little bit of drama, as not all stalls were willing to accept those gift coupons as they are not ready to cash) the rest for ourselves, where we got Richard Osman’s first book, The Thursday Murder Club, a book of Rumi’s poems (I wanted one of those for a while), and a Rebus novel by Ian Rankin.

By the time we were done with the book fair, we were exhausted and it was almost 5 hours in that building, but we ain’t complaining as we ended up not spending a single rupee of our own and yet ended up buying some good books for ourselves. We also realized that it is just not watching quizzes that are fun, taking part is too as long as we are not too competitive about it and not ashamed of not scoring any points 🙂 We got to know of a quiz club which we could join if we fancied and I think Mr M might be tempted to do so once he finds his footing.

I can never win!

A word of advice (if I may):

Never change countries while changing jobs while your house is still not fully complete. It is a nightmare! More on this in the upcoming posts (maybe some rants will be involved too). But in this one, I wanted to share some of the funnier things that have happened so far.

When we decided to move I did tell Mr M that he would be an odd man out in my city, especially in the place where we were planning to settle down as the influx of people from other countries is very minimal (read zero). You might find a handful in the city centre or in the malls, but out where we are close to the hills and almost 15 km away from the city centre, none. He had his share of incidents where he was asked to be part of a selfie, a group photo, etc. where they find him interesting and looking so different to everyone around. He has also had incidents where in shopping places, he has been given the royal treatment and I am ignored like a nobody 🙂 even in spite of being the person who is footing the bill for his purchases (he doesn’t have a bank account here as of yet). He has also had incidents where he has been ogled at or rather stared at and pointed at and whispered behind hands to the presence of a foreigner (for them) amidst them. This has put him off from time to time but he started coping by waving at people who stare at him. That takes them by surprise and they either smile and wave back or just turn away and don’t look at him anymore.

I am curious as to what the folks around here think when they see him. I grew up in this place and I can, to some extent, understand the curiosity of knowing why someone who isn’t from India wants to be in such a remote part of the country, but would I have stared at them wondering or would I have had the courage to say hi or at least respond to them if they had said hi to me? I think it would be the former. I am an introvert at heart (even though people who know me now might disagree but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like initiating conversations).

The other day we were going for a walk when a car screeched to a halt next to Mr M and the fellow who was driving asked him where he was from and why was he walking (all the while totally ignoring me who was right beside Mr M, he did not even look at me for a second) around the area in the dust. Mr M was trying to convey that he was out for a walk and that he lived close by and that it was totally fine but that gentleman wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted that he would be happy to drive Mr M to wherever he wanted to go 😀 (and nope, he still didn’t bother looking at me while having this conversation with Mr M) Mr M then had to explain to him very patiently that he has a vehicle (which he doesn’t drive by the way :P) but that he chose to walk to know the place etc. etc. and that fellow was so surprised that a foreigner would like to go for a walk whereas the locals wouldn’t even consider something like that at all (I am sure some of my neighbours who are out for a walk every single day would be very offended by that statement if they heard that gentleman). And then he turns to me and asks me where was I from and that is when I unleashed my weapon and spoke to him in Tamil and told him that this was my hometown. Boy was it fun to watch his surprise. He apologized to me (for what I don’t know) and then bid us farewell and went his way.

This wasn’t the first time that kind of incident happened. We have got a scooter and were out to fill petrol (or gas as you might call it on the other side of the world) and this young chap who was filling the petrol spoke to me in English (or what he knew of it) once he saw Mr M. I knew he was trying his best with his limited knowledge and so encouraged him by answering in English (questions ranged from where were we from, what is Mr M’s country etc. etc.) and then when he asked me about my place I didn’t have a choice but to tell him that this city was my hometown and he then started to chat in Tamil and chided me (in good fun) that I could have let him know about it and he would not have tried too hard in English. But I didn’t have the heart to crush his attempt at making an impression with Mr M.

It wasn’t just them. Even the folks in the school I joined (for a brief while at least) all thought that since I moved here from the UK and since my husband was Irish, I wouldn’t know Tamil. On what basis did they come to that conclusion I don’t know. I look like a proper Tamilian in my current surroundings. There is no mistaking me and my Tamil face. But by association (even though they haven’t seen my Irish husband) they all assumed me to speak only English. One day when I uttered a line from Vadivelu’s (a Tamil comedian) movie scenes, they were surprised. I had to tell them that I was in this country until recently.

You know what gets me though. When I moved to the UK, people in the UK thought that I wouldn’t know enough English because I came from a part of India which isn’t popular and there were surprised to hear me speak good English (and comment on that too). I had to explain to them that I studied in an English medium and worked in MNCs (multi-national companies) which had HQs (headquarters) in the Netherlands and San Francisco and have had to deal with clients from other countries for almost two decades. Now that I am back in India, people here think that because I have an Irish husband, I don’t know any other language other than English. The irony of it all heh. 😀 I can never win. I end up explaining to people no matter where I go…Is it because my face is so generic in nature that I can be categorized as Indian in the UK, European in India, and alien on Mars? Who knows, heh! At least Mr M’s presence in the community is getting normalized day by day and fewer people are staring at him unless they are new to the place or passing by. Now, this doesn’t mean that people here can understand him. That is a story for another time.

What will I miss?

I am relieved of my official duties, we have shipped our things, we made our one last final day trip within the UK to a place I wanted to always visit (more on that later in the day trip post on the other blog), we have given away all the things that might be of some use to others, found my plants a new home with my friends, etc. etc. There are a few last-minute bits and pieces left to do until the next weekend when we finally board the plane. But there is one question that a few asked me for which I am trying here to find an answer. What will you miss when you go back to India?

Honestly? I don’t know. Materially I don’t think I would miss anything. Life has taught me (without being too maudlin) that it is easy to replace the material things if you have some savings left with you and you might even come to know if you absolutely needed those things in your life or not. And with the globalisation of things, we can get a lot of stuff that we get here in the UK back in India too (although I should say I remember seeing more American stuff than British stuff… times might have changed…who knows…I will update you if I do see a change 🙂 ) Jokingly, I would say I would miss the concept of a bath. Just soaking in that hot water until I turn into a prune is just heavenly during the winter. I can never have that in my place. Half of the time we have water shortages, especially in the summer. What about English Breakfast? I might have to travel to Bangalore to get one but definitely not in Coimbatore 😀

What did I miss when I moved to the UK? I am sure some folks asked me the same question when I was about to leave India. After living here for 5 years, what did I miss? Did I miss the dosa and paratha or the temples or my travel fridge magnets (100’s of them) that I had collected over the years which are now stored in a locked room? Honestly? No. What then? People in my circle, my very small circle. This circle consists of my close friends and immediate family. Thanks to WhatsApp, Skype, GatherTown, Zoom etc., the distance between them and me seems to be that bit smaller.

Having been here in the UK only for 5 years, my circle is much smaller than the one in India 😀 and since the sudden change of work, place, country etc, is gonna hit me hard next month, I guess I will miss them sharply given the way we have been together. So here is a shout out to those few poor souls who happen to be in my circle and for whose presence I am forever grateful because they made my life a bit more colourful here. (Only pseudonyms in my blog sadly… but I hope you can spot yourself in this post 😀 )

When I moved from software engineering to teaching I didn’t have much help and was floundering to find a way (thanks to some online courses and books) but Mr Millwall came to my rescue with his 30+ years of teaching experience. He just took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of education and became my very close friend. He is also the first to call me if there is some interesting news in the cricket world 🙂 I am glad he is enjoying his retirement and is doing well. Hopefully, he will learn how to call via WhatsApp soon so that I can connect with him.

The tall Croatian teaching assistant has been there to give me an extra hand whenever I needed one and kept me sane. We didn’t have anything in common and in spite o that we bonded very well. Being much more experienced than me both at work and in life, she was a good sounding board and we started hanging out of work too, sharing bus rides and life stories and eventually became friends. I am glad that I could get her a churidar from India last time I was there and she looked absolutely gorgeous in it.

Ms Iskcon was Mr M’s friend but she is now a family friend, thanks to our heritage and shared native language. We used to spend our Christmas Eve at her place playing board games and puzzles with her family, which gave us the feeling of being a part of a big loud, amazing, and chaotic family from now and then. She used to come to our place for the Sunday lunch (she had a knack for calling us exactly at lunchtime and would be invited inevitably 😀 It helped that she lived only a floor below us.) Any time we talk, we end up discussing and debating everything under the sun. I will cherish her ability to discuss anything and everything (spiritual, political, socio-economic, you name it). I sincerely hope that she can visit us in India.

Now comes the group in Swansea 🙂 Who knew that a kick (literally) would start a friendship. I keep telling Mr Half-Trousers that in terms of his age he is closer to my nephew than to me but that has only made the friendship more fun. He has tried to teach me frisbee (emphasis on the word tried…). He has also fed me so much baked stuff it feels like he was fulfilling some debt he owed from his previous life 😀 His sticky toffee pudding is one thing I will never be able to replace. I wish he keeps up with his star baker abilities in spite of his busy software engineering lifestyle, which he has taken up now. He has also been my yoga student for the past 6 months helping me in my journey.

Mr Tall and Grumpy (I can say this and get away with it because he knows he is, lol) was that person whom I thought would the quiet and studious one but turned out that he is all that and also the naughtiest. Both him and Mr Half-Trousers have been the reason I am known in my team for throwing squishy toys at people. They drove me nuts with their antics 😀 but he was also my partner in crime at work. We taught together quite a lot and that gave us a lot to share in terms of knowledge and experience. I am very glad he is having a stint at the industry now and I will miss seeing his daughter grow (hopefully he will keep me posted on that and would take a trip to India and go on a good food tour).

Mr Badmintennis is one of a kind. An old soul trapped in a very young body. He amazes me with his knowledge of all things old and historic. I should call him Mr Minecraft or Mr Gamemaker because he is very well known for that but more than that he is/was my badminton/tennis partner. We have been playing the game for a while now and I hope he continues to play it with the rest of the group. I am sure I will engage his expertise in my new job when I have to do something in Minecraft or even take us on a virtual tour of computers.

Ms OrganizedArtist joined us during the first lockdown and so there has been a delay in getting to know her but my god, she is talented. I am always happy to be associated with very artistic friends like her and Anita. They bring a lot of colour in my life 🙂 She is the second person in my life (after my friend in Bangalore) with whom I haven’t felt any reservations whatsoever, while being before their camera and knowing that they are taking my photograph. She is yet to perfect her art of hitting Mr Badmintennis on his head during the tennis/badminton games but I am sure she will get there with a little bit more practice 😉 (make sure you let me know when that happens, girl!) She did a painting of my portrait which is available on my Instagram and I am very thankful for that. It is definitely getting framed. I am sure she will definitely make her way to South India and I will get to visit her home country (Ukraine) soon.

There are a couple more people I know and are part of that small circle but this is my group whom I would like to keep in touch with no matter where I go and what I do (assuming that they feel the same 😀 ) I am again hoping that the various communication channels that helped me keep in touch with my group in India while I was in the UK would help me do the same with this lot. This is also my way of conveying my thanks to them for being part of my journey and saying a proper goodbye I guess, even though we did say our goodbyes by doing a South Indian food tour and what a day it was 🙂 So much fun.

Diolch yn fawr for everything and hopefully we will get to meet again sooner rather than later.

No Wrinkles

My nieces are at the age where they just make an impromptu video call on WhatsApp and can go on for a long time. But it has been a while since I had spoken to them as they were busy with school and exams and such. I had sent them a selfie when I had received my reading glasses and I was trying to smile and take a selfie at the same time. I am very good at multi-tasking except for taking a selfie and smiling at the same time. I have never got that right and trust me, I have tried it way too many times and have failed every single time. Something about seeing yourself in the camera and trying to smile and yet thinking about the composition… never works for me. I applaud every single one of you who can take a good selfie.

So last week, when my nieces called, the first thing my niece said to me was “Your face looks so nice and so smooth…no wrinkles”. I wasn’t sure where this was coming from and why I wouldn’t have wrinkles. I am at the age where when I try to concentrate or when I try to smile or laugh you do have wrinkles on your forehead and your mouth which are otherwise called laugh lines. Also, I wasn’t sure if this was a backhanded compliment of sorts. So I asked her what she meant about wrinkles, she told me that in the photograph I sent with the reading glasses on, my face was full of wrinkles and that I looked old but now when they see me on camera there isn’t any and I looked the same as always. I couldn’t help but laugh and be surprised at the same time.

The more I spoke to her I realised that they still see me as the person from 5 years ago. They are surprised when I look a little bit haggard, especially on a bad day and show my age. They are not able to understand how I could age so much in so little time. By the time I finished the call with her, I felt so much older 🤣. I hope that when I move back and they see me more often, these kinds of comments will reduce (not expecting it to cease but at least reduce).

Magpie Murders

Recently when my friend gave me all these Agatha Christie’s books, he also gave me a book called Magpie Murders which was recommended by his sister. I have heard of it but wasn’t aware of the storyline and such. When I had finished Christie’s books, I started on this one. It took me a week to complete this but it kept me hooked the whole time. It is a very cleverly written book that has a story inside a story and is cleverly woven. It has so many viewpoints, not in terms of characters, but who the characters are. You see a story as an editor, as an author, as a reader, as a critic etc. It also satisfies readers who love to solve puzzles because that is what this is all about. I am trying to say so much without saying too much about the story because it will spoil the book for everyone. If you love mysteries, thrillers, well-written fiction, then this is a must-read. And to my surprise, I found out that there is a TV series that is being filmed which is premiering tomorrow. Yay!!! Can’t wait for it now that I have read the book. I don’t usually give 5 stars to books that aren’t from my favourite authors ( I am biased that way) but this one did.