It is a Sunday morning. The lady of the house has seen the sunlight hours prior to us. She is watering the plants now. We wake up to the distilled sunlight, filtered through the curtains, drowning the spread of grains in the balcony. The grains are still wet.
The Sunday morning is most dramatic of all. The morning dresses up in the background score of Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Still in bed, through hazy vision and through the blankets’ silk laces, I can see papa bringing morning tea for the lady and glasses of milk for us. Things have come a long way for the men, now days. “Every man must assist in household daily chores.” Mother injects us with certain dose of ‘Family-values’ every morning. Three boys in a family, such lessons are required, she believes. We are faithful disciples. Bubbling with aspiration, we look up to our father for seconding the assertion. He is busy sipping his tea. We get our lesson. Morning tea/milk session was also when trivial issues were pitched before greater authority (read: mummy) for consent. ‘A New bat-Signing the complain diary from school’-‘Going to Disneyland in the nearby ground’ were few of them. We were very cautious before branding our needs. Gauging the ambience variables. Pimping it as a third person. Sometimes, appending few anecdotes to it. No wonder, two of her children are MBA aspirants. Third was, too, until a year ago. The clock strikes 9. Rangoli is, now, running credits. Papa wants to browse through the updates of Fodder scam. The Kitchen is silent today, relatively. That means no utensils for the maid to wash and corn flakes for us. Mummy throws off the blanket citing that the house wouldn’t clean by itself. None of us wants to get played in this discussion. We kept quiet. Papa is really ‘co-operating’ today. He said he is ok with corn flakes. Probably, his friends are coming over for tea. I tell you, everyone in the family has their own signature marketing tricks.
Amidst the few sounds that reach the third floor of our building, the most awaited, for us, were the ones which sounds like hurried footsteps, shouts, ‘Catch’, ‘Run’ and eventually a door bell. It is a very peculiar thing with Indian moms. They might give in to your most absurd demands as long as they see you are not much attached to it. or at least appear to. And the moment, they sense your nerve on it, you have had it. They shall invoke all the power vested by the ‘Mother Eve’ to have it their way. The trick is to play it cool. Sadly, we learnt this very late.
Our playtime, sadly, falls into the basket of one of those things. Early in the childhood, she understood our cravings for it. I must say, she has exploited it to its extreme end. No sooner the bell rang than I went to grab the bat, elegantly stationed against the corner wall. The other two brothers went hunting for the ball underneath all the bed posts in the house. But to no fruitful result, finally, “Mummy, Where is the ball?” After few pleadings and under the pretence of promises, she finally gives in. She opens her wardrobe, and before handing it over, makes us promise to put it to the right place next time. Anyway, the anxious friends hanging on the door knob are getting restless. It is time to put Sunday to best use. Make up for some lost matches. And lost pride. The kids of city don’t have grounds. They adjust in the concrete jungles. Drawing three verticals of uniform width, with a brick piece, is a exigent demand. The wicket on the bowler’s end is a flock of all the slippers huddled up. The big feet takes three steps and marks the crease. Our playground is less of an establishment than a compromise. A long covered horizontal duct with wider end openings is crowned with the position of our pitch. The side that adorns the scribbled wicket, sadly, has just one wide open stretched roof on its leg side. The wall, that joins the side wall, gives us no space on the other side. The off side has always been a dead angle for us. Once the pitch is ready, time to lay down ground rules. The walls in front are the boundaries. Direct hit yields a six, a four otherwise. If the ball goes down the terrace (anyhow), the player is declared out. And he will have to get the ball back. One-tip-one-hand is not included as the number of players is significant, today. No LBW. ‘Mankading’ is enforced. (Back then, we knew about the rule, not the term, though) The pace of the bowling should decrease with the approaching dusk. As for the rest, normal cricketing rules shall apply. The choosing of the teams is a perfect sample space for a sociology experiment. The teams are evened out, not on the number in a team, but their capabilities on the field (terrace, as in this case). A tobacco sachet is used for a toss. “English or Hindi” (as the writings on the sachet) is the call. And then the ball turns. 2 hours, around 4 eight over matches, 3 quarrels and few callings from home later, our game stops. We go home. Put the bat behind the door, against the wall. The ball was rolled below the bed post. There are cups in the drawing room. Mum isn’t very happy. Father’s friends would have come, I guess.
Our cricket match postmortem isn’t over. The fight, then, switches from the pitch to the dining table. With excerpts from the match and few recollection, “I still remember the look on his face when I dived sideways to stop that boundary” *Torn jeans around knees, though* Another one interrupts, “Did you see, how I flicked that bouncer?” He snaps,”Hey, drop it! The next bowl you were caught” “At least, I didn’t go for a duck!” Realising the lack of a comeback, he covers his ears and hollers out aloud, “I am not listening! I am not listening.” and runs across the hall. Profanity hadn’t imbued our vocabulary. Hence, we had to resort to such theatrics then and now. Oh! We had our moments. Every morning scripted a new tale. Unheard of, before. Getting onto the rickshaw, and waving back to our creators, who stood in the balcony, till our rickshaw-wala pulls beyond the horizon. The check routine for empty water bottles on our return. Oh! This was the era of Homeworks too! And the one that duly noted writing clarity. Counting the number of ‘Good’, ‘Very Good’, and a ‘Star’ on our homework, was a competitive sport. It was prestigious. We had bumps too. But, I shall leave that for some other time. Nevertheless, through out the rough patches and good ones, the common denominator for us was our mother. We call her, a necessary evil.
I can hear the clock chimes. It strikes 2. The balcony door is open. Breeze is flirting with the calendar. Calendar is earnestly trying to turn that troubled page over. “You shall have to wait. Still a day to go.” I thought. The next page reads, November 1, 1999.
It is 2014. Another November, today.
She would have seen the sunlight hours prior to us. I couldn’t call her up. My reminder pinged me to do so, though. Father would still be sipping tea. I don’t know. It is ironical that silence resonates into the halls that once boasted of chaos. She wishes all the kids to be there. It is actually improbable. Jaipur, Guwahati and Banglore does make a Triangle. Apparently, one with the largest perimeter. Yet, it is another Sunday morning. The lady of house might still be watering the plants. She might have woken up to the distilled sunlight, filtered through the curtains and drowning the spread of grains in the balcony. It’s just that the grains are now dry.