A topical story for the cricket season
Mohanti was the last recognized batsman at the crease. It was the final of an international one-day series with a formidable team and with the series evenly poised at 2-2 each. He was facing the last ball of the 50th over. A sixer was needed to win the match. It was a do or die situation. He was the cynosure of millions of eyes on the ground and before TVs. His future depended on what he did today. The stadium was packed to the full. There was an eerie silence all around. The suspense was punishing with the commentators going silent for a while with their fingers crossed. As the bowler was walking back to the starting point, there was a flash of his life for Mohanti from his child hood days like a film on a screen.
The couple in their thirties with their two children were the last to get down from the train that terminated at Khurda Road. The compartment had become empty. The few passengers had left and the platform was almost empty. The husband and wife took their small luggage in one hand and held the children on the other. Just as they were moving away from the train, they heard a wail of a baby. They both stopped abruptly wondering where from the cry had come from. The shrill cry from a new born babe came again from within the dark compartment. The man rushed in to see a new born baby of hardly ten days old lying on a rag under a seat. It was clear to him that it was abandoned. The wife too who had followed him looked around. There was not a soul visible.
Handing over the crying baby to his wife, the man said, “Pacify the baby. We cannot be cruel to leave the baby here and go away. We will take it and leave it at the police outpost in the station.”
The moment she took the baby in her hands, it stopped crying and broke into an innocent smile. It was cute looking baby boy. Resting the baby on her shoulder, she turned to her husband and said, “Why not we keep this baby ourselves? If we leave it with police, they will surely hand this over to an orphanage. I don’t wish this gift of God should go there.”
The husband meekly pointed out that they were already leading a hand to mouth life and that addition of one more member would strain their tiny budget. She put her foot down telling emphatically that they could share whatever they had amongst the five and that the baby should be retained by them. That settled the issue. The baby boy grew up as a member of their family. They bestowed the same affection and care as they gave to the other two children.
Mohanti looked at the bowler running menacingly towards him to bowl the last ball. The entire crowd stood up on their feet in high anticipation. His mind was blank to the noisy surroundings and his eyes were focused at the bowler’s arm. Mohanti hit the ball with all the strength at his command and presto the ball soared high and travelled across the vast ground to hit the roof of the pavilion with a thud. There was a deafening uproar from the hysterical crowd even as his team mates came running to lift him on their shoulders. His country had won with a nail biting finish. As he walked back to the pavilion with other players forming line on both sides, the applause from the stands was resounding.
Declared the man of the match, one of the foreign commentators approached him with a mike on hand and said, “This is a memorable occasion in your cricket career that has just started. You have been instrumental in bringing the trophy to your country. I think you have cemented your place in the team. You will soon be showered with riches and goodies in plenty. What would you like to say on this momentous occasion? To whom would you ascribe this outstanding feat?”
Even as he wiped the flowing tears from his eyes, Mohanti replied without a moment’s hesitation, “I dedicate this achievement wholly to my loving parents. They are not here but must be watching TV at our house in a small town in Odisha. My thoughts go back very long. Twenty-three years ago, they took a spontaneous decision at a railway station that changed the course of my life. I owe everything to them today, tomorrow and forever.”
There was a puzzled and curious look on the faces of the commentator and the millions who heard Mohanti even as he continued, “The snap decision they took that day transformed me from an abandoned orphan baby in a dingy compartment to be their loving son and a cricketer.”