Monday, April 23, 2018

A happy compromise

The short form of cricket being the flavour of the season,I am posting an old story on this theme written almost a decade back for readers who had not followed my blog then
The cricket season is in full swing with annual T20 tournament being played across the country drawing everyone to the grounds or the TVs whichever was convenient. The schools were closed for summer vacation. I see daily from the porch of my apartment about a dozen young boys in the age group ranging from nine to fifteen playing cricket in the large vacant space of my housing complex. The sun may be scorching at 40 degrees Celsius but the boys are at the ground by 11am undeterred by the sweltering heat. A few wore over sized county caps while most were bare headed. Only some boys had shoes while the rest played with or without chappals, mostly Hawaii. They played with three stumps of irregular heights on one side and a bamboo stick doing the duty of a stump at the bowler’s end. They used old tennis balls as they had no money to buy a regular cricket ball. There were two pairs of pads with one pair being smaller than the other. The wicket keeper had to be content with torn and frayed gloves. For the timid among the boys, an old hand glove was available but rarely used. None of these deficiencies dampened their soaring spirits or muted their loud appeals during the game.
They adopted a shortened version of T20 format by dividing the number of available boys into three teams and played 6 overs each. They christened themselves with equally high sounding names though they lacked the colourful uniforms or the smiling faces of celebrities to own and patronize the teams. Luckily they had common cheer leaders for all the teams from urchins of less than 7 years with or without shirts aping the lusty movements of the regular cheer leaders we see on the TV. There was the unfortunate incident of one mother pulling away her 5 year old girl from the cheer leaders’ team for what she considered an obscene movement of the child’s posterior.
As I was watching daily from the porch of my apartment, I saw one fat and short boy sitting alone under a tree beside an improvised score board. I have never seen the boy playing on any single day. I called him and asked him his name and why he was not joining others in the fun.
Amidst sobbing he replied, “I am Sumitkumar. I keep asking my friends to include me in any of the teams but they refuse asking me to look after the scoreboard. They keep telling me that I am an owner like Sharukh Khan or Preity Zinta and should stay in the pavilion with dignity as they do.
“This is grossly unfair. Each one of you can take care of the score board by turn. What is this nonsense of you being an owner? Call the boys right now. I will have this matter sorted out,” I said angrily.
“Uncle, it could be because I am a Gujarati boy and my Tamil is not that good,” he added to buttress his case.
I felt it was unfair to exclude a colony boy on silly grounds and called three older boys from among those who were playing.
“Why are you excluding Sumitkumar? I learn he is benched daily. Is it because he is from another part of the country? If there are thirteen players, let one sit out by turn to look after the score board. If you people behave like this, I would see that the ground is not used for playing cricket,” I said in feigned anger

The boys said in chorus, “No Uncle, though a Gujarati he can speak Tamil as fluently as any of us and can even swear in filthy manner. We have not excluded him for his being Gujarati but because he is the owner of all the teams. Owners do not play.”
 I got annoyed and shouted “What rubbish are you saying? What owner? Include him in the game or I will not allow you people to play here anymore.”
The boys pleaded “Uncle, kindly listen to us. The bat, stumps, pads and gloves belong to him. That is why he is the owner.”
I shouted “Are you not ashamed? The boy is giving you all the equipment for you to play with. Without them you cannot play at all. Yet you do not have any sense of gratitude?”
The boys again said in one voice “Uncle, he is not giving them free. He collects a rent of Rs.10 per day. It is actually high  for us but he would not reduce the amount.”
When I looked at Sumit, he hung his head down as if to confirm what was said. “I have considered your points. Henceforth Sumit would collect Rs5 per day and he should be included in one of the teams. Score board would be taken care of one of you by turn. Sumit will arrange to get a good   fourth stump instead of a bamboo stick. Since you are playing with tennis ball, there is no need for batting pads or gloves for batsmen.” I concluded
That compromise left everyone happy including Sumit who  remembered that T6 tournament too had a commercial angle.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The kind cop

Mohan was driving the jeep towards the main bazaar. Tall and stodgy in his starched Khaki uniform with its stripes,with a baton on hand and a pin pointed mustache, he was evoking instant respect. His wide leather belt that carried the holster for the pistol and his cap in Khaki and black that sat trim on his head only added a vague fear. It was evening around 5pm.He saw a crowd in the middle of the road with the people on the periphery craning their necks to see what was happening in the middle. There was a babel of angry voices,” Kill her”. “Strip her”, “Break her hands”, and so on.
When the crowd heard the shrill horn of the jeep and saw Mohan’s khaki uniform, it instantly parted and gave way for the jeep to proceed. Some people started to disperse silently wishing to avoid trouble and some remained curiously to witness what was likely happen. Mohan saw a woman in her early thirties beaten blue with bruises on her eyes, lips and cheeks. Blood was oozing out. Her clothes were torn and upper garments removed except for a torn blouse hiding her chest. Even the sari had been pulled away and she was in her petticoat. It was a distressing sight to see the mob in mindless fury assaulting a defenceless woman.
Even as Mohan stopped the jeep, some men came near the jeep on their own and started telling him unsolicited “Sahib, this woman is evidently a witch from her looks and unkempt hair. She is very likely a child abductor as we saw her talking to and dragging an unwilling child. She also stole a packet of bread from the opposite shop. We were teaching a lesson that she would not forget before  bringing her to police station. Luckily you have yourself come, Sahib”
Mohan turned to see a four year old girl child crying in a corner and understood the situation. Had he not come, they would have stripped her naked and possibly killed her too. In an authoritarian tone he said to the crowd in general” Move away. It is wrong on your part to take law in your own hands. Leave the job to the police. Disperse immediately.” He asked two men to lift her and put her in the rear seat. The woman was promptly put in the jeep.  
When she in pain turned and pointed to the weeping girl child who had ambled towards the jeep and pleaded almost inaudibly,” Please do not leave my daughter alone here. They may kill her. Allow her to come with me.” He lifted the child and put the girl by her side.
Turning to the mob, he said “I will take her at the police station and arrange to have the matter enquired into. Beware, if she perchance dies, you will all be in trouble.” One or two fellows wished to come along to see what was done at police station.
 Mohan said “No one need come. If you still come, you could be made witnesses. When she lodges her complaint that you all beat and stripped her, you may have to prove your innocence.” Thereupon the men quietly withdrew allowing the jeep to proceed.
After traveling some distance, Mohan stopped the jeep and asked the sobbing woman as to what had actually happened. “Ayya (Sir), my children are starving for the last two days. My husband has deserted me. It is true I stole the bread without knowing the crowd would beat me up.”
Mohan said” I understand your predicament. Lucky I was there in time as otherwise they would have put you to great shame and injury. You should not steal henceforth. Take these 200 rupees, get food and go home. Don’t go near the bazaar for a few days.” She thanked him profusely as she got down with her child.
Mohan proceeded towards the school where he was supposed to be at 5-30pm.As soon as he reached the gate, his wife and son came rushing towards him. “Mohan, Why so late? The function is to start in a few minutes. The chief guest has already come. You look swell in your uniform, cap and all,” said his wife
He saw his boy dressed like a politician in kurta, pajama with black glasses a pan parag box in hand and long angavastram on his shoulders The boy was taking part in school fancy dress competition that evening. and he had requested his dad to come behind him as a special protection guard as netas are seen. Mohan had agreed to play along and had come in hired uniform for an evening.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Feminine charm

It was past 8 pm and the sky was threatening to break into rain. The road was a bit desolate and the lights were few and far between. The office crowd had thinned out. There were not many on the road that had many sprawling IT offices in the interior of big IT park. Cars were of course whizzing past now and then at great speed. Amar had a meeting at one of the offices that should have been over by 6pm. But it started late and he was held up. His wife Ruchika had taken his car as Amar had agreed to come home in a taxi.
As he was walking with the brief case in one hand, he saw a young woman virtually running from another gate of the complex towards him. He could see that she was afraid of something as she was frequently looking behind her shoulders. About thirty yards behind her, he saw two young men trailing her and increasing their pace to close the gap. Amar wondered how this young lady dared to walk alone in lonely stretch without the security of numbers. As the distance between the woman and the young men reduced, she ran faster towards him.
When she was a few yards from him, she shouted “Raghav, how are you? How come you are here at this point of time?” Amar looked behind to see whether anyone else was behind him. When he saw none, he turned towards her wondering to whom she was talking.
By that time, she had clasped his hand with hers and whispered hurriedly, “Please save me. These fellows have been stalking me for quite some distance and keep whistling. I am sure they are wicked men and their intentions are not honourable. Please pretend that we are friends.”
Amar immediately forced a big smile on his face and shook her hands vigorously talking to her some meaningless nothings enthusiastically. The stalkers on seeing the big built Amar conversing animatedly with the young woman went past them possibly looking for another easy prey.
After they left, the young woman said, “I am Sonali.I have no words to thank you enough. I am sure but for you they would have ruined me. You are my saviour and I would be eternally grateful to you. Can I walk with you up to the auto stand?”
 She looked very attractive when she smiled. When they walked together, she actually snuggled close to him possibly as it gave a sense of security. Nevertheless, Amar relished the soft fragrance of her perfume and the feminine charm of her close proximity rubbing shoulders with him, though not without a guilty conscience. When they reached the auto stand, she gave him a hug with smiling eyes in gratitude for his help. She took a three wheeler and Amar took another one.
When he reached home, Ruchika was already there. He told her proudly how he saved a young woman from the clutches of rogues but did not mention how she walked with him rubbing shoulder to shoulder. When he changed his dress, he found to his great shock that his wallet was missing from the rear pocket of his trouser. He had kept Rs. 6000 in cash besides a few credit cards and ATM card. He notified immediately the banks about the loss. They then drove to the police station near the IT park to lodge a complaint.
The kindly Sub Inspector after listening to his woes sympathetically said “I will register the complaint, but you are the seventh loser this month. This is a new strategy. The woman and the two men are part of a gang and deprive gullible men of their belongings. The woman being good looking and well dressed, people fall for this trap. We are trying hard to catch them with a decoy walking daily in that stretch. They are clever and have not so far fallen into our snare. We are sure to get them. Don’t worry. We will get in touch with you.”
While they were returning, Ruchika said, “Do not mind this small loss. However, this incident of being cheated by a wily woman should not deter you from helping other genuine women in distress.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Subhadra's gift

Subhadra has been working her mind to death like a dog with the bone for the last few days to determine the apt gift for her mom on her ensuing 75th birth day. She did not want it to be gaudy or rich. Neither a sari nor a jewel seemed appropriate. Her dad had passed away only a year ago and she knew her mom would have no celebration whatever. Her mom had not got over the shock and was still grieving living on past memories and refusing to move on with life.
Her husband could be of no help to her in choosing an ideal gift with his crazy idea of taking her mom out to a picturesque spot on the occasion. He presumably thought that it would be a change from the surroundings and the monotonous routine. But then he had not understood her mother’s psyche. Her mom had emphatically told him when he broached the subject that she would not like any celebration and that the day would pass off like any other day. She wanted Subhadra and her husband to respect her wishes.
As she lay in the bed thinking about the right gift keeping in mind her mom’s wishes, memories of her younger days came to her mind. Her parents were very loving to each other in their married life. Each one of them gave in to make the other happy. Her dad would stealthily wash dishes or cook an impromptu meal when her mom was away to the temple. Her mom would take delight in replenishing dad’s wardrobe with new shirts and pants without his knowledge. While they would argue in feigned anger for such acts, they were inwardly happy at the demonstration of love. Subhadra had never witnessed even a single instance of their being angry with each other while tiffs and tantrums seemed a regular feature in her life. She always believed that a happy married life is a blessing not given to all.
She dozed off to sleep only to have a wonderful dream. Her dad had come to her house alone from the evening walk and asked her to bring good tea with namkeens. It was unusual of him to come alone as her mom always accompanied him. He was in a happy frame of mind cracking jokes and laughing loudly. It was then her mom’s birth day celebrations came to her mind and sought his help to choose the gift.
“Ha-ha, you want me to tell you how I would celebrate her birthday? However, unwilling she might be, I would go for a big and private affair starting with an appointment the previous day at a local beauty salon for a facial and massage. I would then take her to a mall to get for her a new outfit of clothes, shoes and a matching hand bag. On her birth day, I would pamper her with a yummy breakfast in her bed with a bouquet of sixty roses. In the evening we would have a quiet dinner at a nice hotel along with you and your husband. What more would she need?” he laughed aloud.
“Appa, I admire you for your thoughtful plan but I wanted your suggestion about what I should gift mom on this occasion.”
” I have already thought about it. I think a beautiful and big frame with her picture along with me would be an ideal gift she would cherish. Go to the best shop and get a very good frame You can locate the picture in the bottom drawer of my study table,” he said to her great joy and relief.
It was a wonderful suggestion and even as she was thanking her dad, the dream ended abruptly. Making her sad for a while. But she was happy that her dad had solved her problem so well.
The next morning, she hurried to her parent’s house that was kept locked and rummaged the old photo albums in her father’s desk to find the latest picture of her parents that her dad had mentioned. She quietly brought it with her. She had it enlarged it to the size of the large golden frame.
On her mom’s birth day, she quietly tiptoed to her mom’s room along with her husband carrying with her the big frame with photo neatly wrapped in a sober gift wrapper. When her mom saw the gift in Subhadra’s hands she became deeply upset and said “I told you clearly that I will have no gifts or celebration and yet you choose to hurt my feelings by bringing this packet. Don’t you respect the sentiments of your mom?”
Subhadra said ”Amma,please listen, this is no ordinary gift. I am respecting the wishes of my dad to get this for you. He came in my dream and suggested that I do his bidding. Open it and see for yourself.”
When her mom opened the packet to see the picture in a wonderful frame with her sitting shyly by the side of her standing husband with his arm around her, she was thrilled beyond words. She read the verse below the picture with tears flowing on her cheeks.
“Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there...
When you wake from sleep in the early morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft, starlight at night.
Do not worry and weep.
If I am not there."