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Friday, August 29, 2014

The Day I Was Awesome

I had an idea that I'd like your help for:

All of us go through some dark times - it could be a tough week or a day where everything seems to go against you. I know that very often, I forget how 'good' I can be. In times when I only see my own failures, I forget my biggest successes. I wonder if it's the same with you? I want to remind myself of the day(s) I rocked. Self-deprecating humour is all well and good, but I've found it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves of brilliant we can be. I would love to hear your stories. I found writing this deeply therapeutic. If you want to share it with me or anyone else, that's fine, but you can keep it to yourself too if you like. So I'll get the ball rolling: It was Year 8 and for one day, in my gigantic, scary high school in Hong Kong, I was THE man.

My time in Hong Kong was difficult. I went from the most sheltered, posh London prep school, to the big bad world of an international high school. I went from a boy's school of blazers and ties to the tumult of a co-education. On my first day at Island school in Hong Kong, I turned up with my shirt tucked in, my trousers fastened about my navel and my hair in a neat side parting. I could not have been any lamer if I'd tried. I had to walk to school on my own, buy my own lunch and make my own friends in a choatic Asian metropolis. Two years of bullying and pre-pubescent insecurity meant I changed from a naive, sincere Indian kid into a weary, Western teenager. It wasn't all bad. People made fun of my clothes and my innocence and thus I began to understand what it meant to be 'cool' - whatever that means at age 12.  But it did mean I started to be mean to the few kids who were even lower down the food chain than me. I realised that being smart in a school dominated by white kids meant being a nerd. Suddenly, being a class-topper wasn't necessarily a good thing. My brains were really all I had going for me, and one sweet day, I wow all 1,200 peopled in one fell swoop.

It was the Junior Quiz of 2003 (?). Three students from each house (one from Year 7-9) made up the six teams. I was in Fleming. I can't remember how I was picked. The Year 7 kid was another Indian guy who could only really spell well. The Year 9 girl was a sweet English girl who was more interested in the boys from the watching audience. The entire school - even the impossibly tall Year 13s - was watching. Most were sniggering away. I remember on that morning, some of the cool expat kids in my class had paid a smart Chinese classmate to do their homework. It was that kind of place.

The quiz began and we were doing OK. The Year 9 girl was a bit of a ditz who wasn't confident in herself. She'd always get me and Year 7 kid to answer the group questions. I expected more from a Year 9. The Year 7 kid wasn't even that good a speller. Some 'team'. I remember an early question on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. This was a day everything went right - when they come along, you have to grab them and savour them. The answer to the question was Brutus, but the Year 9 didn't know. How could she? It's not like she'd bloody studied it in Year 8?  I remember instinctively mouthing the answer silently towards the audience. I didn't look at her. Come on, brown eyed Sally. I hadn't made a noise. She wasn't even facing me. But somehow, she mumbled "Brutus?" and we were through to the next round. It was one of those days.

There were only two houses left in the final round - the buzzer round. Us, on red Fleming desk and, somewhat fittingly, Einstein, on their purple desk. Einstein had two brown guys AND a brown girl. This was going to be tough. The first to 15 points would win and we were languishing behind with 7 points to Einstein's 14. They had been cleaning up with the pop culture and music questions. What did I know about music? I remember once after school, the one cool Indian kid once asked me, almost out of pity, "So what bands do you listen to?" My reply, when I think about it now, was shocking. "I'm not really into music," I murmured sheepishly. I loved music, but I didn't have taste of my own. My two years in Hong Kong made me grow up very fast.

Suddenly, I got my geography questions and awoke from the lull. BOOM. The Danube. BOOM. Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was like a movie scene - in a movie for hopeless nerdy losers. We were up to 10 points. Einstein were getting nervous. I was in the zone. I didn't wait to ask my team-mates. I wasn't even thinking any more. The quiz master almost began addressing the questions to me. The audience was cheering - for ME! Fatty four-eyes was eating these for breakfast. I leaned forward as far as I could, waiting to gobble up the next question. It was 14 all. Einstein were there for the taking. I had gotten 7 in a row.

I will never forget the last question.

"Which movie wo-"
"The Lord of the Rings!"

The quiz master paused for a second, surprised at my answer, almost egging me on to finish. I think he wanted me to win. I've never been a 'winner'. I don't like to compete. I like to be friends. So gay, I know.

For a split second, I doubted myself. I hadn't even heard the full question. I just knew that that was the only big film news. It had to be it.

"The Return of the King?"

The quiz master, a old Englishman with short grey hair and a grey beard, said with a smile on his face, "The question was: which movie won 11 Oscars at the most recent Academy Awards? And Fleming, you're right! You win!"

Who was this Fleming guy? Ian? Stephen? I didn't care. I had won it, in front of the whole school. It was all me. For a split second, people actually knew me. Some may have even liked me. Fleming house cheered for a bit, before everyone eargerly left the auditorium to get to the tuck-shop in time for the 11am dim-sum that finishes so quickly. The best thing about Island School was the food at the tuck-shop. And it was wasted on these teenagers, these Philistines. I got a few handshakes and congratulations on my way out off the stage. I remember our history teacher, a really cool English guy (history teachers CAN be cool), named Nick or Nigel or something came up to me and said I was oustanding. He looked me in the eye and said it. He really meant it.

The crowd dispersed quickly. For 1,199 people at Island School, there were far more important things that day than the Junior Quiz. I doubt a single person remembers that quiz or that day. But I'll never forget it. I had won. That morning, I was the best guy in the building. I was awesome.


Nilima Bhat said...

ooooooo Awesome!!!

I could feel how awesome you were that day. And I was on your side all the way. Not just because I am your mum ;-)

Carpe Diem. I hope many who follow your blog will seize the opportunity and remember, and better still, post lots more stories to make us feel gooooood.

AG said...


I guess your one of the only person left on my blog roll who still blogs

I plan to come back too but just dono where to start from.