Cauvery Gardens Times — No Ball

Raghu, the 10 year old, entered the house in a rush. He flung his school bag to the side and ran into the room to change into his shorts and T-shirt. It was 4:20 PM and he was already 20 minutes late from school. On the way he had seen his usual apartment gang gather near the play area which made him even more anxious.

Cauvery Gardens apartment was home to about 200 families. There were 5 apartment buildings and each building roughly hosted about 40–50 flats. Evening times were usually bustling with activities such as chit chatting, cricket, seven stones, running and catching, cycling etc. Raghu’s gang included Sriram ( 7th Std ) , Vijay ( 6th Std ), Balaji ( 6th Std ) and Farooq ( 5th Std ). They had crossed the running and catching, cycling age and their recent interest was cricket. They graduated about a year ago from playing plastic ball terrace-cricket to rubber ball roadside-cricket. This was a huge thing since plastic balls could be handled with Bournvita or Maltova bats easily. Rubber balls demanded better, more durable bats.

Raghu impatiently waited for the evening coffee that his Amma was preparing for him. He gulped it down over the usual lecture from her about his habit of flinging the bag to the side and how he never puts his uniform in the washing machine.

“Match would have started and I would now be assigned to a team”, he thought to himself. He left the tumbler on the table, shouted “Bye Amma!” and darted out of his house. As he was running towards the play area he noticed the boys were all on one side discussing something. He looked at the sky and saw that it was a bit overcast. This meant that there will not be too much of cricket left for the day. He was already late.

“Raghu is here, lets ask him!”, shouted Vijay

“Raghu, do you by any chance have a ball in your house?”

“No Sriram. Farooq had a blue rubber ball that we played with yesterday, right?”

“Yes, but it got lost during the PT period in his school today. We do not have a ball to play”, told Sriram

“How about we search for the yellow color rubber ball that we lost in the bush on Sunday evening? We did not search much that day since there was very less sunlight. “, said Farooq

All of them agreed that it was a great idea and decided to enter the dreaded bush area again. The problem with the bush area were many folds. The area was large and very thick. They had been warned by the watchmen that the bush area was home to deadly lizards and snakes. The chances of finding a ball in the bush diminished as the days progressed since other gangs might have performed a search operation and successfully found a free ball to play with. Despite of the odds, they entered and started searching.

The time was already close to 5 PM and all they found were a few broken tennis balls, a punctured rubber ball, a few glass bottles and a lot of weird looking insects. Sriram, being the gang leader, called off the search operation and asked the gang to assemble near the wall. It was time to try and execute Plan B, which was tougher.

“I think we are wasting our time. Its already 5 PM and we hardly have an hour and a half left. How about we all pool in money to buy a new rubber ball?”, said the gang leader.

“I dont think my mom will give me money”, said Farooq

Sriram thought for a bit, and decided it was only fair since they had played with Farooq’s rubber ball the last 4 days. So he suggested the rest of the gang to get Rs 2.50 each so that they can buy a new ball. The gang dispersed with a clear understanding that they will meet near the wall again in 10 minutes or less.

Raghu raced to his house again and impatiently rang the calling bell. His Amma opened the door and was surprised to see him back this early. He went into the kitchen, drank a tumbler of water.

“Amma, we are collecting money to get a new rubber ball. I need Rs. 2.50”, said Raghu

“I gave you Rs. 5 last week for you to get a rubber ball, what happened to that?”

“That ball got lost over the weekend when Balaji hit it”

“Ask Balaji to get the new rubber ball then. Why is that its always you who has to pitch in to get a new ball each time?”

“Amma please, only this time!”

“No Raghu. This is becoming a bad habit, asking for money every week. You are not getting it this time”

Raghu knew if his Amma says a “no” in that fashion, there was no point arguing. He was angry and sad, but also was in a hurry to go and convey the news to his gang. He banged the door shut with a loud thud and rushed out to the play area again.

The boys were all already there counting the money.

“Raghu, give me the 2.50”, said Sriram

“I dont have it Sriram. My amma said she will not give it this time around”

There was surprise and chaos in the gang for a brief time. Sriram thought about it and knew he had to come up with a plan fast. Otherwise there will not be any play that evening and that would be very disappointing.

“Okay. We are short by Rs 2.50 then. Let me see if I can ask my mother.”, saying that he ran towards D block where he resided.

On the way he had briefly stopped near the sump tank where the watchmen usually sit and chit chat in the evenings over a tea around 5-ish. Raghu saw him run with new enthusiasm after that conversation.

In a few minutes, with a proud and smiling face the gang leader returned to the wall and took out Rs 2.50 from his pocket.

“How did you manage it? Didnt your amma shout?”, asked the surprised Vijay

“Ha ha. I struck a deal with Mohan Anna. I asked my mother and exchanged a stack of old news papers that was lying around in my house for Rs. 2.50. “

Mohan Anna was the old paper vendor for Cauvery Gardens and other apartment complexes nearby. He usually does business only over the weekends, but operated on as-needed basis over weekdays. Today was a clear emergency and Mohan Anna had to step in.

The rest of the gang were at awe when they heard the story from Sriram. Farooq and Vijay went to Milan stores and got a brand new red color rubber ball for Rs.10

Time was close to 5:30 PM. About an hour of play was left in the evening.

As Balaji twirled the bat around, “Mountain!”, came the call from Raghu. The bat fell down with the plain side up. Toss was done and play began.