“Do you remember where we sat?”
“Bro, how will I ever forget that? We sat on the second last bench,” he was quick to answer but frowned immediately after.
“Not on this day I guess,” my smile widened.
“What do you m…” he looked around, perplexed. “Woah, this works! This works! Surely he is a God! Wait. Goodness gracious, that‟s us!! Varun, that‟s really us!” he screamed, running towards the last bench.
I didn‟t pay attention to him. I couldn‟t believe what I was seeing. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I could witness everything again. The image, all three of us, sitting together and having fun, again, sent chills down my spine. My eyes became moist. Tears that I was holding back broke, the moment I saw him.
“We never knew this will be the last day with him.” I vented out.
Vishnu turned towards me, clenching his teeth. “It‟s annoying that he is not with us today. Ugh!” I nodded. My legs started to tremble as we got near to the prestigious last bench. Was it because I was experiencing something unreal, something supernatural or was I too excited, I‟ll never know. “The scoreboard is 5-0. Virat 5, Cook-0,” a 15-year old Varun spoke.
Vishnu and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. Now all those tears looked like they were tears of joy.
“Damn, do you remember this? We kept beating Madhavan‟s ass every Odd or Even game. Wait…” I quickly swiveled around— “shit, it‟s the same Chemistry teacher.”
“And he is still boring us even after 6 years.”
“Ughh, how boring is he man,” a 15 year old Vishnu spoke.
We roared at the coincidence as we continued to pay attention to the conversation. “Let’s listen to the classes now, can’t we?” Madhavan adjusted his glasses.
“Damn, typical Madhavan!”
“I know right,” Vishnu exclaimed.
“Afraid to lose again?” Vishnu asked cheekily.
“And again?” I completed as we cackled together. We hid our heads behind the front bench and we were smirking.
“Woah, we just didn‟t make him cry man. Apart from that, we did everything,” “Guys, guys…do not be selfish; else even a jellyfish won’t respect you. Now let me listen to the lecture,” Madhavan said.
We both, the younger us and the older us, started to laugh. “Eww, what a horrible saying, dude,” Vishnu smirked.
“Who’s that?” the chemistry teacher all of a sudden blared.
“Shit, he still scares me.” I grumbled as the younger versions of us ducked behind the front bench. “This was the moment he told this lamest dialogue? Dude, dude,” he was chuckling. “Which means I was going to do something next…” he winked at me.
“I remember this exact moment, it‟s so unbelievable that we are seeing everything again,” Vishnu said, his face proud of his younger version.
“Damn this crazy style of your handwriting!” I told as I looked at younger-Vishnu write “if you‟re selfish, even a jellyfish won‟t respect you” in big cursive letters on the top of the blackboard. Words spread like fire and the quote became pretty infamous quickly. Friends from other classes stormed our place to comment on Madhavan‟s brilliance.
“Selfish, Jellyfish? Nice job, bro,” Akash from the other class faked a standing ovation. “Look at Akash, how stupid he looked back then. We were all funny looking, lanky and ugly adolescents!” I cried.
“Bro, bro, please remove it,” I heard Madhavan plead.
“What? Our teacher always wanted a quote on top of the board. Let it be from one of us rather than from an Einsten’s or a Newton’s,” Vishnu replied.
“Fine,” Madhavan said, taking the duster as he walked towards the board.
Younger Vishnu and I tried to stop him as we pulled him off. But Madhavan instinctively blew the dust off from the duster and attacked us from front.
I was watching this scene from quite a distance, my face boring a huge smile. “How happy we were together, right?”
“Yeah mate. Our last happiest day with all three of us together.”
As we were talking, the image of our younger versions became blurry and hazy. I understood what it meant. I looked at Vishnu.
“I think it‟s time,” he said.
I nodded. “Miss you, dude,” I mused.
“Stay quiet! Finger on your lips!” yelled the teacher as we travelled back in time. “Ritika, look after the class and do write bad names on the board. I’ll be back in a while.”
“Are we in our childhood now?” Vishnu asked. He gazed around. “Yes, 3rd A, aww.” III-A, 2/3/2006—the board displayed.
“Did you notice how much cooler it is now?”
“Exactly. Climate change is for real after all,” Vishnu gulped.
My eyes wandered around the class and instantly lit up the moment I saw girls and boys mixed together, sitting on same benches. “There I am!” I cried, taking few steps forward. “Aww, see how cute I look. Ugh, I got uglier as I grew up!”
“Yeah, man, you were chubby and fat, haha.”
The younger-me was mumbling something to the girl sitting next to me and she giggled. “Oh, oh, you were a playboy even long back then, huh?” teased Vishnu.
I chuckled. “Shut up, man! Let‟s see what you‟re doing.” I scanned the place and found Vishnu to be sitting on the other side of the class. He was sitting around a group of girls and whatever he uttered from his mouth made girls giggle like hell. The name „Vishnu‟ was used like a chant for all the girls there. I slowly turned and looked at his face, biting my lips giving a fake glare. “Dude, what is this?” “Bro, that‟s not me. That‟s my twin brother,” he made faces.
“And those girls are your sisters, right?”
“Exactly, bro,‟ he grinned.
“This sister story of yours, I don‟t know when you will change,” I playfully twisted his hands.
“Good names, Bad names”, the leader wrote it on the board and as soon as it was written, half the class became silent. She underlined the words and turned around with a stern look on her face. “Ughh, I hated her. Looking at her still brings back my old hatred for her,” I smirked. “Yeah, man. She made our lives difficult.”
I observed the little-me. He rolled his eyes and gave a death stare at the leader, but only when she wasn‟t looking, because he was obviously scared.
“Damn, I was so like me,” I uttered.
I casually scanned and observed Vishnu. He was still being himself, pulling a random girl‟s braids. “Vishnu”—Ritika wrote in big letters under the bad names column. I started howling. “That bitch!! We should have started something like I Hate Ritika Club.”
I burst into laughter. If only we had watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S long back then.
“But in hindsight, don‟t you think it‟s a wrong idea? I mean children should be themselves. They should express. I mean for guys like you being under bad names may not mean anything but look at me…shit…no no don‟t look at me,” I said embarrassed, trying to cover Vishnu‟s eyes. Vishnu shooed my hands away, saw it and literally did ROFL—rolling on the floor laughing. I was already sitting straight with my finger on my lips and my head straight. I didn‟t move an inch. I felt embarrassed. I knew I was always like that in my childhood but now to see it live was horrible. Vishnu stood up after a long struggle, his eyes all red and watery, spoke finally, “Yeah, bro, very evident how much it meant to you.” He beamed.
“I know. If I had probably gone around the class, pulled someone‟s hair, or had bitten someone‟s ears, I mean, by now I‟d have had some good memories, perhaps a few more friends as well.” “You mean, female friends whom you might date in future?”
“May be. You did date her,” I eyed the girl sitting next to little-Vishnu.
Vishnu sighed. “Indeed. It‟s a long story.”
“Go dear, please don‟t sit like a statue, go around and have fun,” I told the little me. Poor little-me was happy looking dead straight at the wall and at the board every now and then through the corner of his eyes to see if his name was under the Good Names column or not. “What are you looking at? You know she‟s a devil, she will not write your name for sure.”
Ritika scribbled a name; as she moved away— „Varun‟, the board read.
The little guy saw it through the edge of his eyes and there it goes: a subtle twitch on his lips as he smiled.
I stepped back and put a hand over Vishnu‟s shoulder.
“Look how innocent we were. We got so much happiness from doing stupid things,” Vishnu smiled. “Yeah…” I kept admiring myself so much that I was so happy. I felt full.
“It‟s time.” I told.
Images started to blur out once again. Just one thought hung in my head as we were leaving: will people ever be so happy like these little ones around here…?
“Where now?” Vishnu asked.
“I‟ve always been a cricket fan but I don‟t know from when. My earliest cricketing memory is this. So, let‟s see what happens,” I walked up the stairs. “And by the way, this is our first rented house,” I looked around. “See how old it looks,” I smiled.
“Ohh,” Vishnu viewed around, his mouth wide open.
“Aww, look at me, how little I am.” I said.
Little-me was sleeping in his school uniform with his tiny legs curled towards his chest. It was completely dark on 12th November 2003 and I must have slept right after coming from school. “Which grade were you in?”
I thought for a second. “Probably LKG or UKG.”
My dad was sitting on a reclining chair watching India Vs Australia on a little TV. “Wow, Sachin is coming out to bat,” I exclaimed.
Vishnu briskly transfixed his gaze on the TV and said, “Sachin and Sehwag together!” We stood there watching the TV forgetting why we had come there in the first place. It was absolute magic to witness an in-peak Sachin play again.
“Dude, look at his backfoot punch! Ugh! So good,” I was so excited. I have seen Sachin bat but not as an adult when I understood cricket a lot better. My father was a huge Sachin fan and his cheers woke the little-me up.
“Maa!” little-me yelled.
I swiftly looked at him and understood the memories of this day I have is finally unfolding. “I remember this,” I told Vishnu. “I was so angry because I hated cricket and my father was a huge cricket fan. And my sleep is disturbed now.” I chuckled. I leaned forward to observe keenly what had happened next as I didn‟t have a great memory of events that happened later.
“Varun is sleeping, no? Why can’t you keep the TV volume less?” my mum came rushing in from the kitchen.
I looked at her and tears rushed through my eyes. She looked very young and beautiful. “Hmmm,” my father said even as his hands went nowhere near the remote . I smirked. He was the same person as he is now—didn‟t care much to what my mom said.
My mum took me to the bathroom and made me wash my mouth, splashed water on my face and wiped my face with a towel in one full motion. She was extremely fast.
Little-me quietly sat down on my father‟s lap. “Why are you watching cricket again? It’s so boring,” I was very grumpy.
Vishnu and I, listening to it, broke into laughter.
“See, Sachin is batting and you should see,” my father spoke.
I saw little-me quietly observing it, his mouth slightly ajar. And that‟s when Sachin played a magical shot. India was chasing a daunting total of 348 and Sachin stepped out and hit Symond‟s delivery over covers for a six. I dropped my mouth and glanced at Vishnu who already had his eyes wide open. That was some shot. When you see Sachin, he looks very calm and small and might give an impression, “Can
he bat?” But when he bats, you know he bats like a God. I observed the little-me on my father‟s lap. He didn‟t blink an eyelid.
“What is that?” little-me asked.
“It’s a six. When a ball flies outside, 6 runs will be added to the number below, see, this number,” my dad stretched to touch the scorecard shown on the screen that used to be very small on the top-right corner. “You learnt addition right in school?”
“Yes papa. 1+1, 2”
“Yeah, exactly like that, 6 will be added to this number,” he pointed out the scorecard.
I saw my little-self staring at the TV, forgetting how grumpy he was. He was smiling for every boundary that Sachin scored. He looked at his father‟s cheery face every time and he cheered along with it.
I stepped back and sighed.
“What‟s wrong?” asked Vishnu.
“Nothing. It‟s just that I always thought this particular day was the reason I know I once hated cricket. But I never knew on the same day I also started liking it. It just feels…uh…weird or special; I couldn‟t exactly tell which is what.”
“Hmmm, I understand,” Vishnu nodded.
Suddenly there was a huge shout on TV and Sachin was bowled. My father was furious and expressed his disappointment.
“What happened, papa,” I asked.
“It’s a wicket, Varun. Sachin got out. When the ball hits on those sticks behind, Sachin has to leave.” I understood the little-me didn‟t understand much but when he saw Sachin walking back, he stood up to leave. I finally understood how I was actually hooked to Sachin‟s batting and to cricket. I smiled. It felt great to cherish those faint hidden memories—my dad, mom, the old house, everything. “We should leave, Vishnu,” I said.
“I have seen what I wanted to see. And I have seen my…,” I started crying, “my parents.” “Bro, why are you crying? It‟s fine…”
“No you don‟t know what I did. You don‟t know how much I hurt them. I‟m sorry…I‟m sorry,” I was weeping. I kept weeping…
I slowly opened my eyes, it was all blurry. My eyes were wet. I knew I was crying for real. I blinked and the water that was stored up in my eyes came pouring down. I felt a hand caressing my head as I looked up slowly. Mom! Her hands were no longer superfast but fragile and weak. Only thing that was constant was her love for me, be it a child or a grown-up.
My body felt like a group of people had beaten me up with iron-rods for hours, or more. The scent of medicines, white lab coats, and the constant beep sounds made me realize what I had done; the image of that gruesome evening flashed before my eyes.
“It‟s okay,” she said, teary eyed.
“I‟ll ne-never… leave you again, ma” I swallowed.
She smiled. I missed that smile. I immediately noticed how old she has become. The image of her wiping my face super-fast made me sad, made me regret my decision. I shouldn‟t have jumped off the building. I shouldn‟t have. But at least I‟m alive but yes, with many bones broken. I tried recollecting everything what I had seen earlier, but I couldn‟t. But for some reason I was happy. A smile floated over my lips. A dream or was it a god, but nevertheless, just a different set of eyes was all I needed to see life is beautiful…