Some years ago, my friend’s cousin arrived in Mumbai from Vizag. He had done a radio operators course. He joined a shipping company and was appointed a radio operator in one of their ships sailing on the high seas. Being a simple boy from a small town was indeed overwhelmed at the new places, the ship anchored at the ports to pick up and download cargo.
And once during his regular sailing, the ship anchored at a port in UK. The ship was to anchor there for a few days. The sailors were allowed to disembark and tour the town, a new experience for my friend’s cousin. As he walked around, he remembered he had to buy something. He entered a store and asked for a match box. The owner of the store, an old man said, ‘No, no.’ My friend’s cousin was surprised though he could see the stock of match boxes kept neatly on the shelf, the old man said no. He decide to ask him again. ‘Sir match box please.’ The old man got irritated and said, ‘no, I told you so.’ My friend’s cousin though confused, did not give up, decided to make one more final attempt. He pointed to the shelf where the boxes were stocked and asked, ‘match box sir.’ The old man turned around and said, ‘hey man, you want box of matches?’ and my friend’s cousin nodded. The old man had a hearty laugh and my friend’s cousin shyly took the match and walked away. He was still confused about the English language and the old man at the store.
After returning to India, I heard my friend’s cousin arguing with my friend, ‘Tell me, what’s the difference between a match box and box of matches? These Englishmen make simple things complicated!’ We all had a hearty laugh.