After a month of soft practice we hit the field for our first game, junior team against the senior team. The match had a fairly good attendance. Some girls from Welham Girl’s School were also cheering for us. My sister was leading the pack. The game was a cakewalk and we dominated the juniors completely in the first half. I personally believed that the fifteen minute break in-between two halves of a match could be put to better use than just lying down and listening to a winning coach. So Akshay and I visited the sweet smelling group of girls sitting gracefully besides the touchline. I could see that Akshay and my sister wanted to be alone but that was not going to happen anytime soon, at least not on my vigil. There was a girl in the group taking more than usual interest in the game. Of course that got her my attention.
“Kalsh you are the one who was standing all the time. We couldn’t even see the show and you ask us who the dancers were? Ha-ha…” and he laughed it off, “Look there goes her boyfriend!” he pointed behind me.
I did not look. I wasn’t afraid of the fact that he might have been better looking or better dressed than me. That boy possessed the company of the one girl whom I very passionately desired and this made his sight agonizing. So I walked away like a man. I believed it to be a crush and forgot it. I will tell you her name. She was christened Aastha. This is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Faith’ and quite frankly I lost all of my faith that evening. Yes this happens with all teenagers. Infatuation followed by courtship then sporadic despair and finally a matrimonial communion, but it was different with me.
At all times I felt a connection with her. In fact I was in search for someone who would have a connection with me. The lyrics that follow this chapter have been misplaced. They deserve to be in the beginning of this book. These lyrics were the first thing I wanted to write in the book. Unfortunately I never jotted them down. Nearly all my teenage I have been humming this one tune till it finally took the form of a tangible lyric on 25th of December. The Christmas parties, I tell you! They were a jolly big affair in convents. Almost all the students from various schools in Dehradoon used to come to the annual bash. There used to be a special presentation by one of the schools as well.
Akshay: You are right. We have exploited all the resources available to us. You suffer because of us. We are responsible and now you must share our responsibility. Shower us with your compassion. You are the captain; you are the machismo of Dehradoon. This is your exploitation and our ‘Spoilt Brats Exploitation Program’.
Their persuasion was futile. I had made my decision not on vague arguments put forward by the group. I signed the covenant because Akshay wanted me to sign it. This was to be my last covenant. I promised myself that I would never get myself into such a situation in the future. No lies for my family anymore. The last covenant signed and christened “Spoilt Brats Exploitation Program” (SBxP).
All the stars that I can’t count,
All the notes from the neighbouring pond,
Lay below the moonlight…oh dear moonlight.
I need no songs, no lyrics,
No beats, no bass, no rhythm,
I lay below the moonlight…oh dear moonlight
One side was dark, the other darker,
One was near, the other farther,
And I lay below the moonlight…oh dear moonlight
My heart wanted to write about the immense beauty of the greens, but my hands were trembling with anxiety at the sight of the equally daunting woods. The jeep was covered from the top, but open in the back. We were comfortable with our luggage under the seat. A smile was noticeable on Sahib’s face. He was signalling something to Keshav, with the his squinting eyes. I had never seen him give such a smile since the fifth grade. I was clueless as to what would be coming my way. I turned towards Akshay who appeared very restless. It appeared as if he was framing sentences, probably to disclose something to me. Presumably he would soon make the announcement.
I was ashamed of what transpired that night. I vowed never to step on the stage again. Even the thought of facing the girls form the theatre troupe raised my hair on end. Mr. Charlie, my football coach was a happy man. I was training with a never before seen zeal. He could sense that I didn’t want to leave the field. He was sure that after that mortifying incident I would have nothing to do with girls from Wenham. However in the Meantime my teachers and friends tried to dispel my fears. In fact the principal invited me into his office for a counselling session. This was my life- study in the morning, play in the afternoon and sleep at night. I was left with little time to catch my breath leave alone thinking about that night. As a result the week following December the 23rd, occupied seven blank pages in my diary.
I decided to sit and watch the proceedings for sometime before making an entry (my favourite part). So there I was in the last row, trying to understand what the woman wanted and what mistakes were being made by the contestants. Suddenly she announced lunch and got up. This was my first complete view of the woman who was going to judge me sooner or later.
I chose the title of a Lady because she carried herself with a grace which I had never seen before. She wasn’t tall but made all around her look insignificant. Her coat didn’t flutter when she walked. The skirt ending just below the knee didn’t give her legs the freedom of movement enjoyed by the school girls of Welham, yet she was swifter than any girl a quarter of her age. Penguins are amazing creatures. They appear to be the most royally dressed by Mother Nature. Her sophistication forced me to call her Lady Penguin. The last name didn’t occur to me instantly, but even that story will unfold eventually.
Now back to the kick. This was not Italy and definitely not an Italian goalkeeper facing me. So I missed. The ball touched the top right corner and then it occurred to me- A’ Del Piero was left footed!! And I wasn’t.
The ball bounced, everyone pounced and the tallest man on the field, Keshav, made contact with the ball. Not his feet, neither the head, it wasn’t a hand or an elbow, no footballer thighs but a part so intimate that I can hardly mention, but yet he could hardly ignore. He squeaked like a pig whose tail had been squashed!
But this was not the worse part. Incidentally the ball was now moving towards me and everyone towards him. I had the choice to help the boy get up and forget the kick. I had to make my first unregimented decision and I decided to go with my heart and forget the last eighty eight seconds of fame.
I extruded a shot so fierce that not even a wall would have stopped it. I scored the goal that got us the title of ‘Champions of Dehradoon’. The goalkeeper was with his defender (Keshav) and the ball inside the net.
I was not on the field anymore. As the referee whistled my teammates made a gesture I can never forget. They lifted me six feet in the air and Anurag, the captain standing in front of me gifted me my dream. Like an elder brother hands down the prodigy of a family. I received a piece of rubber cut like a ring. I might be the only prince to be crowned with a ring and not a crown. I was now wearing on my right arm Anurag’s band, the captain’s band, it was now my band.
That day I was unofficially declared the captain of the school football team. This chapter is full of terms like ‘Me’, ‘I’, ‘Mine’ and the likes. At this point of time in my life I was at the apogee of my epilogue. Peak in academics, peak in sports, peak in relationships and I feel a compulsion to start this book from the peak. This is the beginning of a long journey. It is the pinnacle of ego where the most interesting revelations occur and here I stooped down below.