BOOK1: Page 12

It was the second full moon night of September in 2003, the date I am unsure of, but yet it can never be forgotten. I got a call quite late at night from my coach, Charlie Sir. He taught me everything I know on the field. Off the field our physical education teacher used to be in a continuous battle with the English language. I remember that night he was waiting at the reception. Both of us decided to go for a walk. He was threatening me in an amusing demeanour.

Charlie Sir: Kalsh I think I will have to talk to your parents, especially your mother and father.

Kalsh: But sir, I thought you personally congratulated them last month when they came for my felicitation ceremony.

Charlie Sir: This is not about praises you fool. Do you have any idea how many practice sessions you attended last month?

Kalsh: No sir!

Charlie Sir: Do you even recall that there is something called practice at quarter past five and a half? Let me tell you. (He held me by my shoulders) I don’t care if you’re the first boy in the last fifteen years to score twenty four goals in one season; or your brother was my favourite student; or the fact that you saved me from the poisonous air force in the chemistry lab; or the fact that my son is your best friend. I won’t count your blessings when I throw you out of the team.

Kalsh: But Sir… (He didn’t even care for me to complete.)

Charlie Sir: And to think that you are willing to abandon all this in order to become the first boy in the history of this school to dance in a ballet is nauseating.

Kalsh: Dance is not that bad actually.

Charlie Sir: All I am concerned about is that you attend every practice like all your teammates. Don’t expect special treatment just because you are the captain.

Kalsh: It’s just that I was really beginning to enjoy the company.

Charlie Sir: Eh… as I suspected. It’s always about girls. Let me tell you, hundreds before you have destroyed their lives for these girls. Do you want to add another name to that long list of losers?

Kalsh: No sir.

Charlie Sir: First and foremost your loyalty lies with the team, then with me, then with the school and still if any bit of self importance is left you can think about yourself. Mark my words, “A looser who runs after skimpily clad girls in tights is not my son. He is not on my team.”

Book 1: Page 3

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!save

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.

Book 1: Page 2, Para 2

So I got back to my position and Aakrisht returned to the stands. It was difficult but I was able to achieve the trance yet again. Beginning the count again from zero with huge gulps of air my body got numb. Once the usual scenario set-in by the fifty fourth gasp there was a long pause. My devil’s foot could be let loose any moment. All the usual scents, all the usual sounds, all the usual tastes and all the usual presence had been replaced by absence.

penaltyAbsence of the self once achieved is hard to live without. And to live with it, one must live in that isolated moment forever wherein one shoots the ball carefully spaced between two flanking heart beats. The awestruck crowds of parents, teachers, classmates and (most importantly) the opposition fans were taken by surprise as I flexed my muscles just after the eighty eighth throb of the chest. How perfectly I executed a “le’ Del Peiro Penalty“. I stood still with each and every muscle of my body numb.

As the ball left my foot I heard a ‘noise’. It became clearer and I heard a ‘voice’. On further analysis I heard a ‘prayer’. And I heard another one and another one and it all again became a ‘noise’. I have not heard this noise for over a decade now. These voices that stay with us all our lives might just vanish one day when we start treating them as noises. The noise today was quite eloquent. It comprised of prayers and swears. The most audible one belonged to my friend the Robot, who secretly wanted to lose the bet. A good friend always knows when to win and why to lose.

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