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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters


Vinay J
How can there be a cricket match without a bat?

SeenuSeenu was ten years old. He was a passionate cricket fan. His hero was none other than Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman in the world. He had a great deal of respect for his hero. He thought about cricket day and night. He imitated Sachin’s gait, batting style and the manner in which he threw the ball to the stumps… He had even his hair turned curly by paying extra two rupees at the Mountain Hair Saloon last Sunday.

Seenu was undoubtedly the best batsman in his local team – The Stars, formed by his huge band of friends. He had a collection of medals and trophies he won in several neighbouring cricket matches. He dreamt of becoming a great batsman one day and representing India in the World Cup.
Seenu’s dream of becoming a maestro was dampened by one thing. He did not possess a proper cricket bat. He always played with a borrowed one. Whenever Seenu looked at the photographs of Sachin and his shining bat in sports magazines and newspapers, his desires to have a bat exactly like that kept growing. He craved to hit fours and sixes with the new bat. But he had no money to buy one!

Money made Seenu go mad. He did not like the idea of getting something as precious as a bat by paying a lot of money. But he knew that without money he could never possess a bat like Sachin. He chalked out a list of moneylenders in his mind. Firstly it was his father then his mother and lastly his elder sister Latha. He crossed out his father’s name from the list because he was out of town for a week or so. He knew his mother would not disappoint him.

The next morning, he entered the kitchen cautiously like a cat. His mother was busy preparing the dough for dosas. He said haughtily, "Ma, I want money to buy a new cricket bat. Give it to me soon." His voice was muffled by the sound of the grinding machine. His mother failed to hear him. He then screeched, "Ma!" His mother turned back and glared at him. She switched off the machine and said, "Why do you scream like a jackal. Have you seen a snake or what? And what business you’ve got in the kitchen at this hour. You’ve had your breakfast…"
Seenu fumbled for words. "Ma, can you give me some… money?"
"For what," his mother shot back.
Again he was at a loss for words and murmured, "For… a cricket bat."
His mother grew serious and stared at him and said, "What? Cricket bat? I don’t have money for such unwanted things. Your father isn’t a millionaire. Anyway, why do you need a new bat now? You’ve got one already, isn’t it? I can’t afford to waste the household money. Please go now. I’ve got lots of chores to do."

Seenu was unhappy. He wore a dull face and sat in the compound watching the blue matter of the sky. Latha who had returned from a cinema, asked him, "Hey Seenu, what are you staring at? Looking for shooting stars during the day?" She giggled. Seenu did not bother to look at her.
She continued, "Hey Sachin, what happened to you? You look like a batsman who’s had a string of ducks. No cricket match today?"

Seenu answered, still looking at the sky, "How can there be a cricket match without a bat?" His voice was sombre.
Latha became considerate. She loved her brother so much that she would do anything to make him happy. She placed a warm hand on his back and asked gently, "Seenu, what happened exactly. Please tell me. You shouldn’t hide anything from your sister."
Seenu explained, "Latha, as you know, I’ve always wanted to buy an oil bat. Now the summer holidays have begun. I thought I could play… I asked Ma to give me some money, but she refused. Will you help me, Latha? I’ll do all your work. I’ll even pack the papads and deliver it to your customers."
Latha helped the family budget by making papads and selling it in the neighbourhood. This summer she didn’t pay much attention to papad-making; instead she was busy watching the latest movies in town.
"I wish I could help you, Seenu," she said. "I’ve not been making many papads. And you know how crazy I am about watching films. I too need money. I just have a rupee. Take this as the initial amount for buying your cricket bat. Every drop makes the ocean!"

Seenu meekly accepted the coin. He thought Latha was trying to be clever by quoting a proverb. One rupee meant nothing when compared to the price of the bat, which was sixty-four rupees plus tax. Googly Sports Store near the market wouldn’t give him any discount. The owner of the shop had a bad temper. Every evening when Seenu stood staring at the bat displayed in the window, he would shout at him, "Stop eyeing my bats like that. They are not bananas peeled open to be eaten."
Seenu looked at the coin and keenly observed the three lions on it. He remembered his history teacher explain the significance of four lions as guardians of truth in four directions. He wondered where the fourth lion was. He flipped the coin over and searched for it, but there were only three heads visible. While he was fiddling with the coin, it slipped off his hand and got lost in the wild shrubs grown around his house. He searched frantically, slightly bruising his arm. After a full ten-minute search, he found the coin. He slipped it into his left-hand short-pants pocket that housed colourful threads, different kinds of pebbles and other knick-knacks.

He walked to the Setty Stores that sold all kinds of lentils, rice, flour, vegetables and peppermints. The store was across the main road off the market. The shop had a reputation of supplying outdated items. Hardly more than a dozen customers came to the shop every day. And most of them came to the store for idle-talk with the storeowner, Krishna Setty, a bald-headed, bleary-eyed man. But business was brisk at the opposite store because they sold quality products. Krishna Setty would sit on his chair and eat and snore all day. He had gained a lot of weight during the last couple of years and couldn’t really fit in his chair. He liked children a lot. He occasionally gave them sweets stored in the glass jars. The little children liked his sweets but were scared of asking him for more.

Seenu liked to visit Setty Stores for many reasons. The first reason being he got three peppermints for one rupee, whereas in other shops they gave only two. Setty also gave some samples of new chocolates to Seenu and usually offered items on credit. Seenu liked the shop for its calm transaction without too many customers.

Seenu met Ramu, the captain of The Stars, on the way to the main road. Ramu greeted Seenu, "Hello! Why didn’t you come for practice today? Have you forgotten about the upcoming match? I am not satisfied with your performance, Seenu. You are not concerned about cricket these days."
Seenu didn’t want to hear that from the captain. Ramu was a very moody chap. And Seenu wanted to win back his confidence. He said, "Ramu, I’ve got a rupee with me. Let me treat you today." Together they walked to Setty Stores.

On seeing Seenu, Setty welcomed him, "Come, please come, young man. Pleased to see you today! You are not to be seen lately, what’s the matter? Stopped eating peppermints or no money in your little pocket?" He guffawed, exposing his brown-stained teeth. Seenu scanned the glass jars that housed multicoloured peppermints, candies, oil edibles, red dry jamoons and sweets.
"Ramu, what do you want?" Seenu asked sweetly.

Ramu opted for three chaklis (whorl-shaped oil edible) and an orange candy. Seenu took six botis (yellow-coloured cylindrical oil edible). Setty accepted the coin from Seenu gleefully.
Ramu’s mood changed after munching a chakli. He said, "Seenu, I have a surprise for you. Here is the entry form for the next Sunday’s match against The Rhodes. Read the rules carefully and try to arrange six rupees for the entry fee. We need to pay the fee by the end of this week. See you tomorrow morning in the park." Seenu beamed and said, "Thanks a lot, Ramu. You are very kind."
Seenu came home that evening, feeling content. He read the match rules over and over. The only rule that disturbed him was having no slips for left-handed batsmen. He filled the entry form and tucked it between his geography textbook.

The next morning, The Stars met in the quadrangle of Nehru Park. Ramu, dressed in whites, welcomed all the fifteen members of the team, "Hello everyone! Next Sunday’s match is very important to us. The Rhodes think they have the best fielders. Our top batsmen, Seenu, Venku and myself should find the gaps and score. It’s very easy. We’ll practice hard and win the cup along with the prize money..."
At the mention of money, Seenu’s eyes brightened. He interrupted, "How much is the prize money?"
Ramu was annoyed. He said, "Don’t be bothered about it now. But as you are our best batsman I’ll tell you. The prize for the winning team is hundred and twenty rupees. Man of the Match will get seventy. Let’s begin the practice from this evening."

Seenu knew he would get the Man of the Match prize money if he scored more runs than Ramu. Ramu was a talented player and he was made the captain only because he had the complete cricket set – pads, gloves, oil bat, helmet and wrist bands. Seenu smiled to himself and then winked at Ramu.

From that evening, practice began in full flow. Seenu, as usual, opened the batting with Ramu. He was confident of scoring at least half-century in the match, enabling the team to win the cup and most importantly his share of the cash prize.

There were only four days left for the match. Seenu had still not given the entry fee. Ramu asked him gently, "Seenu, why don’t you ask your mother or sister?" Seenu didn’t want to narrate the whole story. He remained silent and promised to pay the money next day. But Seenu knew not how he could get the money.

The next morning, on his way to Nehru Park, Seenu witnessed a terrifying incident on the busy main road. A white pup walked on to the road from nowhere. Seenu wanted to help the pup. In a flash, a scooter ran over it. The little pup whelped in pain. Seenu rushed to the pup and noticed its bleeding limb. "O, it’s Mr. Shankar’s pup," he cried. He carried the pup in his arm and walked to the local veterinary clinic located three blocks away from the main road.

The vet examined the limb and smiled. He said, "Nothing to worry about. The pup will start running in twenty days." He bandaged the cut and tapped the pup’s head. The pup looked kindly at him.
Seenu carried the pup to Mr Shankar’s house. Mr Shankar, a short man with a receding hairline, was standing outside the gate with an anxious look on his face. He looked at his pup and exclaimed, "Ah, my pup, my pup. Oh, bandage. My pup, my pup… what happened?" Seenu narrated the incident. Mr Shankar looked at Seenu with benevolent eyes. He said, "Dear Seenu, you know how much I love this pup. It’s my only companion. It’s like my daughter. It’s like my son. It’s my child. If it had been killed, I would have become really sad. I have just ten rupees in my pocket. Please accept it as a reward. Please take it."

Seenu accepted the money and ran to Nehru Park. The practise had begun. Ramu demanded an explanation. Seenu silenced Ramu by handing over the entry fee. Ramu thrust the money in his trousers pocket, nodded his head and said, "Go pad up. You’re next."
Sunday came, bringing with it sunshine and excitement. The match between The Rhodes and The Stars took off. The Stars won the toss and elected to bat first. Seenu and Ramu opened the innings. Seenu hooked the first ball to the fence. The spectators, made up of of children from the neighbourhood, clapped and whistled loudly. Seenu was charged. The next ball was hoisted over the boundary ropes. Ramu went up to Seenu and cautioned him to stay composed. But Seenu was over the top; he didn’t stop the flow of fours. His fifty came off just forty-one balls. The little spectators kept screeching in joy.

The Stars finished their innings with a total of one hundred and ten on the board. Seenu was unbeaten on seventy-four. The Rhodes were disappointed with their fielding performance. They decided to now score easy runs as they had four left-handers. The openers scored a brisk thirty, but they couldn’t keep the tempo. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals. They were bundled out for eighty-eight.

Seenu and Ramu hugged each other. Seenu was impatient to receive the cash prize money. When he did get it, he was thrilled to bits.
That evening, Seenu went to Googly Sports Store. Today, he opened the glass door and walked in like a maharaja. The owner eyed him with suspicion. Seenu said, "Excuse me, could you please pack that oil bat that’s on the top for me." The owner meekly accepted the money from Seenu and handed over the bat.

Seenu marvelled at the bat and kissed it. He was so happy that words couldn’t explain. On his way back home, he held the bat in his hand and danced in joy.
At the street corner stood three boys of The Rhodes. One of them snatched the bat from Seenu and hit it hard on the ground. The bat made a cracking sound and broke. Seenu was in tears. He was getting angry, but couldn’t do anything because the boys were physically stronger than him. He just ran homewards with a sad look on his face.

At home was his father, who had just returned from his business trip. He saw Seenu and asked him, "Sachin, you look unhappy. What’s the matter?" Seenu told him what happened.
His father consoled him. "Cricket stars never cry. They fight till the end. I’ve got something special for you that’ll make you happy." He opened his bag and took out a gleaming, thick-handled BDW oil bat. Seenu’s eyes and mouth widened. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was a similar bat that Sachin Tendulkar possessed. Seenu touched the bat and caressed it for a long time.

© J. Vinay


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