The clouds were gathering and it looked like there was finally going to be rain in Chennai in the middle of scorching summer. I was sitting at my desk wondering when my supervisor would leave. I had no work to do and was whiling away my time using google buzz.
A few minutes past 4 30, I was delighted to see my supervisor walk out with his bag and tell me "Na kalambaren bharath...ethavathu doubts iruntha mail illa call pannu."
"Velaye illa ithu la doubt veraya".... I thought and smiled to myself and waited for a couple of mins and then left for home. As I crossed saidapet it started drizzling.
By the time I reached home it was raining steadily and there was no power at home. I cursed the electricity board with the choicest expletives in tamil and went to the ground hoping to see my frenz playing football.
I sat on my favorite railing and made myself comfortable and my mind wandered back to the millions of hours I had spent on that ground. Most people would have found it a very uncomfortable place to sit on. But to me there was nothing more comfortable.
"Dai Naaye" I heard someone scream. I came out of my reverie and realized it was my cousin calling me. "Office illa?" he asked me as he booted up and started tapping the ball. "Illa da seekaram vanthiten". Shyam slapped me on my shoulder and ridiculed me “Ena machi office lendhu thorathi vittutaangala” then started his usual warm up routine.
As the guys gathered someone shouted “Dai oruthan kammi ah irukku da” . Sanath turned around and asked “Dai nee varaya da….summa last man nillu…oda venaam”.
A million thoughts exploded in my mind. It was almost a year since I tore my ligaments in my right knee to follow up the left knee I had busted six years back. I looked at the very same spot where I had lay writhing in pain six years earlier.Repeated negligence of doctor‘s advice and playing through the injury had led my friend (orthopedic doctor) to issue a final warning just a month back stating that I was in serious risk of early arthritis and constant knee pain in future. I had vowed never to play football again.
“Dai varaya illaya” Sanath shouted again. It brought me back to the present. My cousin gave me a dirty look that said “Better don’t come”. “Vayasu aachu da , avan na la namma kooda velayaada mudiyaathu” Shyam taunted me. “Dai avan kitta boots illa da…” my cousin tried to put some sense into me. Shyam gave me a lop sided grin and egged me on to play. “Hey pant potu irukka da. Formals la iruka”…my cousin kept up his mission of persuading me not to play. (It was an unwritten rule on our ground that you should play only in shorts) “Enna da bayama irukka” Shriram asked. “Machan risk edukkatha, mooditu paaru,o*** vilayadi onnum p****** porathu illa” advised Raja, one of my oldest friends who had seen me on that ground for more than 10 years, in his own inimitable style.
I loved playing in the rain. There was nothing better. Barefooted football in the rain was something I would give my life for. I looked at the challenging looks and decided.
I rushed home, changed into shorts. Searched around desperately and finally found my old knee band at the bottom of my shelf.
As I jumped over the railing and into the ground my cousin stared at my right knee, patched up with the band to lend those busted ligaments some sort of a support and then at my left knee, bandaged to cover the bruises and wound I had got when I fell off my bike couple of days back. The wounds were still raw and bloody. “O*** m***** unakku intha nelamai la vilayaadanama” he screamed at me. I knew he was getting worked up for 2 reasons, one for my knee and the other because he knew I was going to be a liability in his team.
The game started.
Fifteen minutes into the game and the moment I dreaded arrived. I was the last man in front of goal and 3 guys were charging at me. I moved into position in front goal hoping that they would shoot waywardly. They came up in front me and started passing it around waiting for me to lose patience and charge. One guy feigned left and let go a ferocious shot. My right leg moved reflexively and blocked the shot and my right knee bore the brunt of the forceful shot. I instantly braced myself for the crippling pain but it never came. My team mates came panting up to me slapped me on the back “gud save da” and the game resumed. I was delirious with joy.
I was grinning madly to myself. The rest of the game is just a blur now. I remember I played pathetically. I very rarely touched the ball. Tried to pass the ball half a dozen times and not one was done properly. I received a million expletives from my team mates.
An hour and half later I lay panting on the ground completely drenched in rain and sweat. Everyone started leaving wondering why I was grinning like an idiot. Shyam gave me a wry smile and said “Thapichita inikku, paapom naalaikku”, nodded a goodbye and left. Raja and my cousin looked at me grinning to myself, mocked a punch at me and walked away shaking their heads. “O*** ivana thiruthave mudiyaathu. Patta than adanguvaan” my cousin murmured.
I didn’t bother. I had played 2 hours of football, not conceded a goal and put in my bit for the team. And still standing on 2 legs at the end of it all. Every inch of my body was screaming with pain. But I was delirious with joy.
Had God asked me a moment to choose to die that would have been it for I would have died the most happiest man in the world.