When I was seven, my parents decided to move to Seychelles. Seychelles is close to Mauritius, which most people know as a tourist destination. Mauritius is a lone island in the sea. Seychelles however, is an archipelago — which means the country comprises of a total of 115 islands of which Mahé was the principal island — the place where most people went. Compared to the other islands, Mahé was the largest, spanning 11 kilometers wide and 27km long. And that was where we went.
When we landed in Seychelles, the first thing that struck me was the smell of salt and fish. That was natural since the airport was right next to the ocean. The next thing that struck me was the people. They were different. To call them relaxed would be an understatement. So let’s just say they enjoyed life.
The third thing I noticed was the shops. South Indians had taken the “responsibilities” of feeding the nation into their own hands.
Being a boy of seven, I wasn’t going to find it hard to adapt to the new environment. Exotic green lizards in the house? Alrighty. Brown, striped lizards crossing your path as you walked on the road? Alrighty. A mammoth golden beach 50 meters away from the school you were going to? Umm…Alrighty?
Most people find it fascinating that I went to a school that was in front of a beach. Trust me, being the “realist” that I am, I would spend half my free time wondering what would happen to us if a tsunami were to strike. Turns out the tsunami of 2004 had killed a grand total of 2 people in the whole archipelago. But still, one must be cautious.
Indians in Seychelles were infamously called “Malabar”. Apparently, the first Indians to land on the island had come off the coast of Malabar in India. The name had stuck. And it pissed me off to no end when someone would ask me if I was a “Malabar” or a “Sinwan” (Sinwan meant Chinese). ‘Indians and Chinese are very different,’ I would say. ‘But you Asians look all the same!’ would be the reply.
So, there I was. A seven-year-old with thin, round glasses and a mistaken Chinese identity, in the midst of one of the most beautiful places in the world. With all the different languages being spoken around me and the word “new Malabar boy” flying around wherever I went, I resorted to the only thing a seven-year-old with thin, round glasses could resort to.
I started reading books.