We lived in Port-Louis, but I went to school in Curepipe, a twenty- minute walk to the railway station plus a seventy-minute train ride. Times two for the return trip. I found this terribly adventurous, and as a result what I was supposed to learn at The Royal College became irrelevant to my life. I was therefore always in trouble. For not doing homework, or handing in work of very poor quality. My behaviour was not praiseworthy either. The sanctions were usually detentions. An hour after school. This was quite punitive, as it meant catching a late train home, which often arrived after sunset.
It did not trigger a significant improvement in my homework or behaviour. So they changed gear, and brandished the “Saturday”.
A “Saturday” was a three-hour detention from nine to twelve. One had to catch a morning train, and owing to the infrequent train services, I only got back from my punishment late afternoon.
It was during a “Saturday” that I became friends with IA. Like me he was a renegade doing the wrong thing at school. As he was two years older than me, and in two classes above, we had not socialised, but when I found him seated in the train compartment that day, a clear bond spontaneously materialised between us.
I was provided with a measly sandwich for the day. The moment the train left the station, for want of something to do, we took out our sandwiches. IA’s gave out an appetising aroma of sardines. Wow, I said, real sardines. He asked what mine was, and I reluctantly admitted that it was just a bun with margarine, sprinkled with sugar. Without a moment’s reflection he said, Here, let’s swop. It was the most delicious sandwich I have ever eaten. Portuguese sardines in olive oil, made into a paté with spring onions and green chillies, and fragrant lemon juice.
Inevitably that was not the first time our paths would cross on a “Saturday”.
For a short while, after we finished schooling, we found ourselves teaching in the same place, the St Andrews’ College. Then we lost contact. I heard later that he married someone who was a man in a woman’s body, who was cruel and abusive, which led to the early death of my sardine benefactor, possibly by suicide.