While coming to work today, a Saturday, I saw people of the village called Chhoti Milak relaxing on the roadsids, sprawled upon the grass. I also saw young men playing cricket in a nearby field. While passing the cricketers my mind started forming a chain of ideas. I remembered the happiness playing cricket used to provide me once. It still does, as I felt the other day, playing hand cricket with my brothers inside the empty room at the place the two Nigam Brothers call their home away from home. We could play only three matches. I had teamed up with the elder Nigam and my younger brother with the younger one. My team lost all the three matches, but just the thrill of playing my favourite game and the sense of immersion and loss of any sense of the existence of the self in the moments of cricketer’s bliss was enough.
I had not enjoyed myself so much in the whole year. Even the joy of blogging does not compare with the joy of cricketing. The Nigam Brothers, by the way, are my maternal aunt’s sons. They are younger to even my brother who is six years younger to me. They belong to Kasi and live in Bangalore, just like my younger brother. They are all software engineers. Why do I mention all the details? I will utilize the sharing of details later. So, we played cricket in Bangalore. I had played at their place the previous year too but I don’t remember having ever played cricket with them in Kasi.
The place where I played most of my matches is the flat parapeted rooftop of my home: there’s only one. And most of the times, my brother used to be my only opponent. We used to play as long as circumstances (read mother) allow. Such was the state of our madness for the game that we’d played cricket in summer afternoons on our roof top, under the scorching summer sun. There were some good days, good for both cricket and us, on which we found ourselves playing cricket with some other boys of the neighbourhood, on their rooftop or ours. Rahul, Sriram and Sonu had rooftops upon which we could play cricket. Sabu’s rooftop was for oonch-neech, langri-taang, chain-chain, and even ikkad-dukkad and Rakesh bhaiya’s for eye-spy and pakdam-pakdai.
On the school ground at the front, that can be seen above, we mostly used to play hand cricket. In the image to the left can be seen the right hand corner towards Chemistry lab and the one to the right shows the middle portion of the ground. It was not such a small ground back then. The building with plants on the extreme right in the first image is quite recent in construction. It was not there in our hand cricket days and the portion on which the new building stands used to be a part of the ground. There used to be a big central hall room in our school that used to remain closed on any day that was not a public holiday. It was either Rakesh Singh or Aalok Singh who had discovered a broken window in one of the classes, that opened into the hall room. The broken part of the window was at least three to four feet above the ground level and its diameter was only a little more than that of our stomach, but our greed for playing cricket would force us to climb into the hall room, despite the clear and present danger of being caught and punished, or expelled.
Many boys of my school used to go to Anglo-Bengali College or CHS ground to play cricket. I did that only twice in my five years in the school. There were many grounds in my university on which cricket was played. I can remember playing there only a few times. Although I do remember my friends playing there. Once I had seen Rakesh Singh who wasn’t a student of the university then, just like me, playing cricket on the ground in front of Birla Hostel. I was riding pillion with my father when I spotted him on the boundary line. I did not envy him then. Our definitions of having good time were different.
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