There was a book meet in IHC (India Habitat Centre). I was in class 9th perhaps. My English teacher had accompanied me and we were discussing R K Narayan’s works. Towards the end, we all were asked to come up with some funny anecdote. So this was mine. I have a habit of storing everything, however trivial. This is one of those.
“Autograph! Please, oh, please!” and I pitied on the little being craving to possess it. Thronged by students and people from all sides, I was actually sandwiched between my bodyguards. Out of the blue, came a reporter with the respect and elation one feels on encountering someone great and lord-like. “This book, please, sign it ma’am,” and as my hand moved over the soft cover of my own book, people cheered enthusiastically. Just then, I felt a nagging pain at my nape, I was about to warn my bodyguards to take care that the crowd doesn’t get the better of them, when there was a huge thud and reproaches. My eyelids heavy, somehow I managed to open my eyes and instantly my hand rose to shield my face from the fierce sun. Suddenly I recognized the all-too-familiar voice of Mum and when my hips began to ache, I found I had fallen out of my bed. Damn! It was wretched Monday! Hateful Monday! Maddening Monday! Why did this fateful day have to arrive? But not a single scream of my inner self reached mum who never spared a single opportunity to reprimand me of my worthlessness and hopelessness. Sweet Saturday and Sunday had flown off, as if. All my homework and learning work remained pending. Head heavy with Mum’s scoldings and pending work and what-nots and cursing everybody in sight, I reluctantly stood up wavering, reached the washroom and started applying Dad’s shaving cream on my toothbrush.
This is a tribute to my sweet buddy Aparna. She is an avid cricket fan and when Sehwag and Pathan came to Jamia, I felt like writing this for her. All we managed to see was Sehwag’s head among the sea of our fellow JMIItes.
It was the fourth class in a row this week I was missing!
But for my friend, it was different. I knew how passionate she was about cricket. Although we played badminton in our free time, she always talked about cricket. While we listened to songs, she had her ears glued to cricket commentary on her phone. She often said that had she been a guy, she would have gone for cricket as a profession.
However I was only humouring her by bunking classes to meet Sehwag and Pathan who were supposed to arrive at the Jamia Sports Complex for the Delhi Daredevils’ practice for the IPL. We squatted in the court, watching the eagerly waiting crowd. There were some with pens, slam books and cameras and there were us, with nothing but hope and desire to see the cricket heroes.
My phone beeped. I opened the message, glancing at the screen- 12:10. The SMS read- sir has left. I looked at her- “We need to go- only this class…then we will return in the break…pakka!” She didn’t seem to hear. I tried again- “Maximum backlogs in this subject…28 last year, remember?” I had touched a nerve.
As soon as the “backlog” class got over, we ran to the sports complex, food forgotten. The scene had transformed, the road was adorned with Mercedes and Volvos now. Security guards surrounded the place.
“Have they arrived?!” I asked an acquaintance. “They just left! See!” he brandished his autograph at my face. Crap! My heart sank- not for me, but for my friend who was willing to miss any amount of classes just to see the cricketers. Her face had such a forlorn look that I couldn’t just leave the matter at that.
We kept roaming the grounds. I ignored the SMSes on my phone that some friends faithfully sent, notifying us about the entry and exit of teachers.
“What are you people doing here?” We looked up. It was the “backlog” sir. What luck to have attended his class!
“We missed meeting Sehwag and Pathan. They left an hour ago”, I replied.
“But I just took Pathan’s autograph in the auditorium. Go right in and hurry up,” Sir said.
It seemed as if my friend had topped the semester and the “backlog” sir had awarded her the highest marks, so happy she was. We dashed to the auditorium and joined the crowd thronging the celebrity.
As we walked to our bus-stop in the evening, comparing Pathan’s autographs, I wondered- an entire day bunk was not much compared to this sense of accomplishment and jubilation on our faces…