I witnessed another maiden over from third man, a proven position for the worst fielder in the team. I stood there like a convict in exile with no one around other than a stray dog, the sole spectator of the match, who was sitting there for quite sometime for no apparent reason. We looked at each other and yawned – “at least you are sitting” I muttered. They say – ‘cricket is a batsman’s game,’ as I went deeper into the axiom to analyze its relevance in the context of the match or rather more pertinent aspects i.e. my contribution to the proceedings from the third man area, I noticed an object approaching the ground.
It drew closer and gradually transformed into a kid on a bike. That was my friend on an Enfield Bullet, quite a heavy bike for a 7th grader, his feet could barely touch the ground. His bike circled around for sometime searching for a support and eventually came to a halt with his left foot firmly planted on a broken pillar. He followed that stunt with a surreptitious nod; I acknowledged back, emulating a signal mechanism employed by the villains and their accomplices in old Hindi movies before launching a vicious attack.
I stealthily proceeded towards his bike and clambered onto the pillion seat. Needless to mention here that I had already finished my batting earlier which was punctuated by couple of balls missing the off stump and the third one ……. anyway, let’s not digress into trivial details, so yeah, there was not much interest left for me in the proceedings post that.
Roar of the engine blended with a cantankerous voice from the center “you just played your last match!” But can a trailing voice stop a bike partially controlled by a 7th grader and rest by law of motion and God? We whizzed past the trees, ponds, the dog, houses and hit the road leaving behind the ground. His hair fluttered in the air and my confidence succumbed to the enormity of self-developed inferiority complex. I have always envied people with straight and smooth hair, always wished my hair blew in the wind. However, every time the wind gusts, my curly and untidy hair belligerently defies my wishes and tangles up in the air paying a humble tribute to Havells commercial.
Back in those days, once out of the house, we didn’t know where we would go. We never had any plans, we just followed our instincts. It’s been a while yet it seems like yesterday.
His hair fluttered on the pyre one last time and I walked towards the gate of the cremation ground. There was nothing left for me to watch.
Some of my friends are deceased, some moved away, and the rest just redefine the term ‘stranger’ and I don’t blame them at all. I see a childhood friend of mine almost everyday. We don’t talk to each other anymore rather we avoid eye contact; however, one day we couldn’t and we had an obligatory conversation. I learned from him that those fields where we played once are all cluttered with buildings now. And then he just blurted out – “how much fun we had Deb!”
How much fun we had. We jumped from the trees, we swam in the pond, we ran into the wind and we got drenched in the rain.
People had time after office to spend the evening with friend, family members, neighbors; there was no such word called a ‘stranger.’ We heard so many stories over a cup of tea. We went for movies together. There was no expectation from anyone yet everyone gave us so much happiness. We didn’t need any comedy show to make us laugh, may be we were just dumb.
And then television came and immediately became an integral part of our lives; it was a whole new experience for us. When the title track of Vikram and Betal came from the neighborhood, we abandoned the match and ran towards our houses. Vikram Betal followed by an evening movie on DD1, it was party time! We tried to learn various intricacies of farming while watching Krishi Darshan. We sang ‘mile sur mera tumhara’ even though we didn’t understand most of the languages in that song. And then when Gavaskar went out to bat with Srikanth and we were getting ready for school, our long forgotten stomach pain resurfaced. We didn’t realize when that idiot box took the center stage and started telling us stories; it was still good.
When we look back in retrospect, our present always looks glum and drab in comparison. There could be many reasons behind that and I am definitely not qualified enough to talk about it (as a matter of fact, I am not sure whether I should have written this post in the first place or not), may be I am just being biased by my childhood nostalgia and inadvertently portraying a life which I never had. But let me be biased and say we did have fun, life did give us time to pause and live the moment.
Given a chance, I would love to live the same life again, in this small, wretched town where there will be trees, there will be ponds and there will be some small little boy riding an Enfield Bullet.