It was the summer of 2003 and holidays had just begun. I was in a hurry to finish homework so that I can go out and play. My mom always had this rule – You’ll be allowed to play only if you finish all your homework. I hated her for this. I never understood why she forced that on me. All my other friends used to invite me only to be sent back by my mom. Just the thought of me being inside the house with a scale and a pencil was disheartening. I used to look through the window to see what my friends were up to. Meanwhile, I learned how to get away with big math problems. If the question was to write numbers from 1 to 1000, I would definitely skip 100 numbers and still make it look as a completed one. The thing is, I was always locked and my friends knew that.
“Mom, I finished my homework, Can I go now at least?” was my desperate request.
“Yes, you can. Close your books and keep them inside your bag. Wash your face, drink milk, eat biscuits and then, you go and play. You should be back by 6”. This was again confusing. Minutes later, when I was putting my books inside the bag, I murmured, she seldom allows me to go outside and now I should do all these before.
As I stepped outside, I feared if they would let me join in the middle of the game. I went to the field and saw everyone playing cricket. Even girls. Girls were made to play as wicket keepers and were allowed to bat in the end. It didn’t matter how much runs they scored. They were made to play so that we could just laugh at how funny they hold a cricket bat.
“Can I join?” I asked.
“The first innings is already over. Wait till next match starts and then you can join” Raju said. He was the kind of guy who made decisions. He made rules that we blindly followed and if there were any fights, he would solve it. Nobody messed with him because if he stopped talking to a guy, no one in our group dared to differ.
I played. I bowled few overs. I was hit for sixes. I batted. I scored few runs and got out eventually. I kept looking at the road to see if the 6’o clock bus came. That was a reminder for me to return to home. When we finished playing, Raju came to me and said, “Hey, I’m getting a new bat from my dad tomorrow”. I was jealous and excited at the same time. Jealous because I never owned one and excited because he would let me play after he got out. I came back home and told my dad about it.
I woke up next day to a surprise. My dad was making a bat out of coconut palm leaf. He was giving final touches and I stood there, elated. He turned and smiled at me. I was still jumping inside in joy like I had made highest score in my friend’s video game.
“Dad, gimme that, I want to check if it’s handle is too big for me”
“Wait for it, I ain’t done with making the blade flat yet”.
I just couldn’t wait. It was as if god had finally replied to my prayers. As he handed it to me, I imagined ball pitching in front of me and I shimmied down and hit it for a six. Later, I came inside and showed it to everyone in the house. Look, Look, This is how Sehwag smashes. Look, Dad, This is how Sachin lifts his bat after scoring a century. Look, this is how Rahul defends.
My friends came around 10 and I was ready to surprise them. I hid it behind and Tada, I showed them my brand new bat. Everyone cheered and we all ran to field to start the day’s play. Since it was a new bat and just a few hours old, I took care of it like a little baby and didn’t let anyone use it roughly. The match had started and I was fielding. All I waited for was – my turn to bat. Just right then, Raju’s father stopped his bike and called his son. Raju ran without caring there was play going on. He turned towards us from a distance and screamed, “My new MRF Bat!!”.
The play was stopped and we all surrounded Raju. His father had brought him a brand new bat from the town that had MRF sticker on it. It was a proper cricket bat. The kind of bat you see in TV. My bat was no match for his. We resumed our play and when it was our turn to bat, no one took my bat. It just lied there, dejected. To be honest, even I didn’t play with it. Now that every kid had held Raju’s bat, he announced that no one touches his bat without his permission. Therefore, next match, I played with my coconut palm leaf bat with a hatred feeling. When I put all my force and tried to slog a ball, I missed it by a mile and hit the ground hard with the bare bat. It hurt myself. A sliver had got in.
“I don’t need this bat. It is lame. I don’t like it. It is old fashioned and my friend won’t even touch it”. I told my dad as pushed the bat down the table.
“Why? What happened? you were okay this morning!. Why are you complaining now”, My dad asked.
“It’s edges are rough and the slivers scare me. It’s blade is round and thick. I can’t even hold it properly”
“Give it to me. I will cut some of the wood out of it so that it will not be heavy and I will smoothen it’s edges as much as I can”.
“Look, It is not just the bat dad. Raju always writes in costly pens and has fancy scales and erasers. His stickers on notebooks are of cricketers and he wraps them with brown wrapper. And, I always write in 1.50Rs pencil whose lead gets broken every time I sharpen it. If I try to rub with that 50ps eraser you got me, it only spoils everything written around it. My scale doesn’t even have markings on it. I open my geometry (instruments box) with my teeth and I am lucky I haven’t broken one yet. My writing pad is brown and rusty while he has Power Rangers one from the city. I want sketch pens and not crayons. I don’t want VKC slippers, I want the belt ones. Why should I have to be like this dad? Why can’t I be like him and-and he always-” I started crying.
“Look, I can get you new instruments box, pencils, erasers, sticker from the store by your school tomorrow. Now, come here”. He said tapping his lap with his hands.
“No, I don’t want anything from that old store by my school. Take me to the store in the city from where he buys things.”
“I see, it is not just about the bat, is it?”
“Yes. It is and also few other things. Look what the bat did to me”. I said showing him the open wound.
“Look son, you cannot ask for everything that you want. We cannot afford it. He can have anything he wants but not you. Tomorrow, he might get a bicycle or even join a bigger school in the town, but you have to realize that you can’t be everything he is. You cannot have everything you ask for. Just accept it what you now have and be happy with it. Have you seen Kempa, the poor kid who comes to collect milk daily in the morning? We gave him your used clothes and also your slate and chalk pieces. Do you think he can ever go to school? Does he complain? Have you seen him crying or whining?.”
“Wait, So you are not sending me to the city school? Should I continue in this broken school with leakage problems when it rains?”
“No. You will go to government school. You have talent. Master Srikanth was telling me that you are a intelligent student. You can shine anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you study. I know you will thrive”.
I was shocked. It was hard to digest. I always dreamed of joining that school in the town to where every rich kid went in yellow school buses. I hoped, one day I will make it to there. But, my father had made it very clear that it will not be the case. From then, I continued to play in my wooden bat and scored few runs too. I got used to it’s weight and uneven edges.
In spite of all this, I learned one important lesson in life. No matter how bitter the truth is, we just have to accept it. Last month, after I confessed to my crush about how I feel, she gently pushed aside it by saying “Hmm, k, Thank you”. While I listened to 21 Guns by Greenday after that, I accepted the fact that I’m not a boyfriend material. When I burned Maggi and ate cleaned the mess myself, I accepted that I am poor at cooking. Life is much easier if we just accept it as it happens. It hurts only when you expect.
I just don’t accept one thing: Jon Snow’s death.
Have a good day Readers,
Chiru H R