I was just returning from my morning jog when I saw Reddy coming out of the Sector-2 slum and walk towards his Ford Fiesta.
"Hey Reddy? What's wrong maan? How come you are here in this part of the world and that too this early."
Reddy was a late night bird and what was noon to us was early morning to him.
"I had gone for the classes."
"Classes? I didn't know you had this charitable streak in you?"
"Charitable streak! I don't understand."
"Didn't you tell me you had gone to the slum to take classes for the slum dwellers? I thought this was your way of reaching out to the underprivileged, the downtrodden and the marginalized sections of the society."
"I had gone to attend classes dhakkan, not to take classes."
"It's a long story. Why don't we go to Bhola canteen and I'll tell you over a cup of tea."
Before I proceed let me tell you a bit about Neeraj Reddy. He was my class mate in school and we were part of one gang. While most of us got into Engineering this guy couldn't even clear class 12. Soon after I left the city and lost track of him. When I came back a decade later I suddenly found that he had become the latest success story of Rourkela. He was now known as NTR or Neeraj Tuition Reddy: the CEO of Reddy Tuitions. His face adorned hoardings, posters, newspapers and he was widely regarded as the Tuition Titan of the city. While most of us were struggling with 9 to 9 jobs he was the 24 x 7 Czar of coaching classes. While we guys were caught in the '2 BR flat with Rs. 8,000 EMI syndrome' and the Nano dream, he was living the 5 BR duplex and Ford and Ferrari reality.
Now as we sat sipping tea he addressed me, "Ramen, as you know the competition in this tuition business is becoming horrendous."
"Really! But why should you worry? You are way ahead of the pack aren't you?"
"That I am. But the competition is inching closer. When I started twenty years back there were only two other institutes in the fray ' now there are twenty two."
"So what according to you is the solution?"
"Diversification. So long I have been offering tuition for Engineering and Medicine. Now I am planning to start a new academy ' IAS."
"Wow you will be churning out Collectors and District Magistrates."
"No, dumbo. I will be churning out Sledgers. I shall be launching the Indian Academy of Sledging or IAS."
I looked at him with incredulity.
"Have you gone nuts?"
"Of course not. Did you not follow the Indian Australia cricketing encounters?"
"Then you would surely remember Captain Dhoni's immortal words: 'Sledging is an art. We Indians should learn it'. Well my academy is going to teach this art."
"B'but where will you get students from?"
"Listen Ramen, cricket is the most lucrative profession today. Every parent wants his child to become a cricketer. And to succeed in this 'gentleman's game' just knowing the science of batting, the craft of bowling and the skill of fielding is not enough. Knowledge of the art of sledging is vital. It can create all the difference between a good player and a great player."
"What will be the structure of the courses you'll offer?"
"For the budding talents I'll have a six month diploma course. For those who are already in the circuit and don't have time to attend classes there shall be a one year correspondence course on offer."
"What about the content?"
"Good question. There will be papers on both verbal sledging as well as body language. In verbal section we'll offer inputs in all the Indian languages as a well as a few foreign ones. For visual sledging we'll teach different gestures and also show video clippings of veterans such as Bhajji and Chappel."
"But this still doesn't explain why you were going to the slum?"
"Like I said - to attend classes. If I have start an academy should I not know the art and science of sledging?"
"Then tell me can there be a better place than a slum to learn the nuances of sledging in its pure and pristine form?"
"No," I shook my head and his hand. As I walked out I could hear him practicing mother, sister, maa - behen, amma'