"Hey, Pavan!! How about a game of cricket?"
" Yeah, right now. Railway stadium. We have a match against the Bosco team in another half an hour".
"But Ravi, I gotta go home. I haven't told my mom about this. She'll be waiting."
"C'mon kid. You are now in the seventh standard. Grow up. Cant you do anything without telling your mom?"
"Nay, it isn't like that.. Its just that she would be expecting me home soon and would get worried if it gets late".
" Look ere, Pavan, I am asking you because I consider you as my trump card. It is a crunch match buddy. We need you."
"hmm, I guess I'm in. But, hmm, It wouldn't take very long. Would it?"
" I don't think so. Anyway, if we bat second, u can open and go home as soon as u get out.. But we would like you to bat till the end though".
"Ok, pal. I'll not let you down".
And I didn't let him down that day. I was in my seventh grade then. Ravi was in the tenth. It was a bright sunny afternoon. We were having our term exams. The exams were in the morning and we could go home in the afternoon. It was a Maths exam that day. I finished the exam an hour before schedule and was just starting to head home when I ran into Ravi. Ravi was one of the better players in the school. He was the captain of the school team. I just couldn't say NO to him. I knew that I was a good solid opener. I loved playing the new ball and using the pace of the ball. Getting behind the line, playing back and across came natural to me. I was short, but I loved playing the bouncers. My father had taught me how to hook and how to play rising deliveries with soft hands. My dad was the captain of his Medical University team during his college days and he loved seeing me bat. Ravi had told me once that he rated me pretty high and I was keen to play well under him. Bosco was a neighboring school and had defeated us in the schools meet, the previous week. This match was supposed to be a revenge match of sorts.
The match began at 12:00. They batted first and made some 100 odd runs in 20 overs. I went into open and stayed till the end. We won the match with 3 wickets in hand and 2 overs to spare. I was unbeaten on 63. It was a great feeling. Everyone was chanting my name as I hit the winning runs.
"Great knock, kid. I knew you would pull it off for us".
"Any day, Ravi"
"You 'll go a long way, Pavan. But right now I guess its time for you to find your way home. Its almost 5:00".
"Whaa whhat?? five... Gosh, my mom.. I better run"....
"Hey Pavan !! Wait, I'll drop u home. I 'll ...."
I wasn't there till he finished the sentence. I was out of there in a jiffy. I ran and I ran. My heart was beating like anything. I knew that I had done something wrong. I should have informed my mom. "Pavan.. Why were u so dumb??". As I turned into our street, I could see my mom waiting for me at the gate. I slowed down a bit, took a few deep breaths and then ran again towards her.. I wasn't ready to hear what was in store for me. My mom's face was pale. Her eyes were moist. I could sense an inexplicable feeling of joy in those eyes as she took me into her arms.
"Where were you? Your dad and I have been looking for you all over since noon. He has now gone to the police station to lodge a complaint."
"I .. I was at the stadium .. playing criccckket".
She gave me an annoyed and disappointed look and was about to say something when my father walked in.
"Where were you? " , he asked.
"I 'm sorry, dad' I .. I know I did a mistake.. I.."
"Where were you? ", the tone was a lot louder this time.
"I was at the stadium playing cricket. I didn't realize.."
That was enough to send him into a fit of rage. He looked as if he would tear me apart, but he didn't do anything of that sort. He then sent out a barricade of verbal assaults on me which were enough to make me cry. I wasn't crying because he was scolding me. But was crying because I knew I had made my parents cry.
My mom had waited for me till 1:00 and then called up my friend Arun's place to see if he had come home. That dumb-head, Arun told my mom that I had finished my exam before 11:00 and had left then itself. She then started getting worried and called my dad. My dad then went on a searching spree, inquiring everyone from the school's watchman to the Principal. He even looked into the two big wells behind the school campus. He even thought of "kidnapping" and even started thinking of what arrangements he needed to make give the ransom. "Kidnapping! - give me a break- Why would anyone kidnap me.. For Godsake". He had even exchanged some heated arguments with some of the security staff at the school. My mom had in the meantime, called up all my classmates. No one had seen me going to the stadium as I had left the exam hall pretty early.
We all sat silently for a long time without saying anything to each other, without looking into each other's eyes. I don't know how long but it felt like ages. I was feeling really uncomfortable. I broke the silence.
"Dad.. Mom.. I am sorry. I realize the amount of anxiety and pain that u went through the whole of this afternoon. I should have told you beforehand and I agree that I acted like a dumb-jock. I know was very foolish and selfish and didn't think about you. Now, please say something. I can't bear this silence anymore".
I said all that with closed eyes and when I opened them after a few minutes, they weren't there. " Oh dear.. Now what have I done. Where are they?"
"Happy Birthday, son". I could hear my father say that as he entered the room from behind with a long and broad parcel in his hand. " After what you did this afternoon, I didn't feel like giving you this, but the fact that you are sorry for what you did, is enough for me to feel convinced that you wouldn't repeat this again."
I gave my dad a big hug and didn't waste time opening the parcel. I could sense what was in it even before I opened it completely. It was a brand new Sunridges cricket bat with the kind of blade that I had always wanted.
"Oh Dad, you are so wonderful".
My mom, then entered with a big chocolate cake. She had prepared it all by herself and the icing said that all. All the words were written deftly using pictures of bats, balls and stumps.
"I love ya mom".
"Love ya too 'avan. Your dad and I have been talking about how much you are getting influenced by this game. We don't want to hinder your aspirations, but we don't want you to lose focus on other important things in life at the same time. So just for a beginning, promise me, no cricket during term exams ".
The door bell just rang.. It was Arvind, my classmate.
"Hey.. Pavan! we have a match tomorrow against St. Evens after the Science exam. Be prepared".
I gave him a nod and looked at my parents. They couldn't help laughing.
Ps: I didn't end up being a Tendulkar. As a matter of fact, I wasn't even in my college team. But the love for the game is still there. So the next time if you are not able to trace me, you know where to look for'