- Just a point, don’t lose heart, he is really playing well’ – consoling words of Jumi’s mother’s entered my ears.It’s not that, there’s no hawk eye facility here in Assam, that would facilitate to watch and check replay, if this is the state of the organiser-umpire, player would definitely grab the chance, isn’t it?
- Shh! Tone down your voice, opponent Ankit’s parents are sitting just behind us
- Jumi’s mother whispered in my ear. My anger was fuelled.
- What is there to worry, there is something called integrity, one should teach one’s child – Jumi’s mother fell silent, I too tried to concentrate back on the game.
Rishi tossed the ball, the right leg moved slightly closer to the stationary left leg, both the knees are bent a little, I sensed – his entire body would come up like a spring for a power serve (his target is definitely the corner of the T), he would dash into the court immediately on landing putting his left foot forward at the follow through of the serve in the hope of picking up the point with a volley or a cross-passing shot. The ball landed a little to the right than at the corner of the T as expected, but the opponent mis-timed as it was packed with power, the ball has moved up, but in a steep curve, most probably it would remain somewhere near the net, Rishi is adjusting his position riveting his eyes at the flight, his left hand is moving upward, the watch is pointing up, the left first finger pointing skyward,the ball is coming down, the racquet head is moving forward at electric speed, a smash! The chair umpire declared – 40-15.
- Look you just keep on worrying for nothing – Jumi’s mother pressed my right hand.
- It’s not that, I haven’t come for nothing to stay at a hotel room in an unknown town tugging along the boy. Our Mister is never free from work. Haven’t you noticed the others, both the parents, coach, trainer, everyone is present. And look at us, the court is rendered unusable covered with mosses during the six month long rainy season, then two-three months would be spent in fixing a coach, by the time the coach takes over and hardly starts learning them with name and face, the State competition is already announced. But even though you may term it to be extreme risk, I set out with the boy. Then, above all, if the officials and umpires have such casual approach, such attitude, why shouldn’t you be angry?
Just one more point is required. Rishi served – a kicking serve, opponent’s down the line return, Rishi’s backhand heavy slice cross-court, opponent’s inside-out forehand, again Rishi’s heavy cross-court slice, opponent’s down-the-line but a little short of length, a fine opening – Rishi dashed into at lightning speed, heavy top-spin cross-court, a winner! Ohh, the ball dipped, jumped up hitting the cord of the net, Oh God? The opponent is running - perhaps a soft drop, Rishi also sprinted towards the net, a desperate attempt – if the opponent can be brought under pressure. The mistake is committed, the opponent has committed the mistake – lobbed the ball rather than soft drop shot, a few extra seconds in the air, the distance of about a metre covered – what more, Rishi came down with a cross-court backhand volley, Ha! The chair umpire declared – ‘Game. Rishi leads 5-2’.
After the Game Rishi and his opponent both came back to their seats. Only one more Game is required, just one. The woman, I mean, Jumi’s mother, why is she silent now, she generally keeps on passing comments, oh! she is not by my side, I looked around, what is this, one should at least take leave before parting. I looked at the Court, Court No. 2 empty, there is Jumi’s mother near the officials, that means her daughter’s last game of the day is about to start now. It is better to say of the night rather than of the day. It’s the month of December, I looked at the watch, twenty minutes past seven, the sheet of fog is descending, suddenly I felt the pinch of cold, the legs are feeling cold and heavy even under the jeans, the soles are leaden inside the casuals and socks. Those clothes worn right at the morning, four hours in the bus with all the luggage, then the rickshaw ride, checking into the hotel room-literally throwing the baggage of clothing there and a hurried lunch, then again the rickshaw ride, document verification at the office of the organizing Committee (I was saved as Registration was done in advance courtesy a cousin, otherwise I was done with, the day before was spent in the practicals of Spanish Guitar, Bhatkhande exam, no consideration, no rescheduling), and now I am here at the spectator gallery. I looked back, just a few people, parents of Ankit – Rishi’s opponent, and another couple – perhaps parents of Jumi’s opponent, two-three boys at the last row. A small gathering of ten-twelve people in front of the office of the Organising Committee, appears to be waiting for an inside news to learn about the possible fixture of next days timing to save on waiting time. A chilly whiff of wind rattled my bones. I pulled the zipper of the jacket till the topmost point. Suddenly a worry encompassed me, it’s twenty past seven, and it takes at least ten to fifteen minutes-even upto twenty in a game, that means seven-forty, five minutes for arranging dress and kit bag of Rishi, that makes it seven forty-five, would I get a rickshaw? ‘Time’-the voice of chair umpire wafted in. I tried to contact my cousin in his mobile – Out of reach! What to do now?
- What are you doing, Rishi? The mobile rang loudly, it’s Debu, I am shivering in cold here, he is least bothered, look at the role of the father, now he is going to ask, ‘Hey, how is everything? Is he winning?’
- Match is going on, see what mistakes he has been commiting, I am totally upset. I would ring you later.’
- What happened, tell me the result, why are you keeping me in tension?
- He has not lost.
- What do you mean by he has not lost, Oh, that means he won! That’s it, you should say straightaway.
- Ma, that you said Papa then, - he has not lost, it is a big thing, isn’t it?
- You said, he has not lost, but I have actually won; perhaps you were referring to Ankit. Ankit has not lost, but I have won.
- May be.
- Ankit is a good lad, isn’t it ma?
- You have never met him before, how can you surmise so?
- No. But you hugged him.
- Did you mind?
- No, I actually felt good that you did that. But why did you embrace him?
- All the mother’s do have the same heart, so. Now go to sleep, there are more matches to play tomorrow. – I could not fall sleep for a long time even that, what is Ankit’s mother doing, and Ankit?