Friday, March 11, 2011

Of Cricket and Exams

Up until the cricket world cup, C… was a very worried man. His tea-shop was the hub of local gossip. With the local elections over and the stock market having sunk below the horizon, there was nothing of topical interest to keep a conversation going. As a result, there was a drop in customers and those that remained found that the tea being served was also worthy of analyses. The scrutiny made matters awkward for C… and put his business model at a considerable disadvantage as he was compelled to use more milk. Naturally, his bottom line hurt badly.

Thus, no one welcomed the World Cup more than C… did. His mood brightened considerably. The shop was getting crowded and the animated chatter at the tables was clear signal that his tea was forgiven and forgotten. He turned up the volume of the television and went back to serving his tried and trusted concoction.

That morning, we had gathered at the tea-shop after our calorie burning routines. God was in heaven, cricket was being played in India, C….’s tea was forgiven and all was well with the world.

Well, not quite……Cricket is funny game-both on the field(about which much has been written) and off it(about which we know nothing).

It was exam time and in some families, cricket and exams didn’t seem to mix. In fact, it brought unimaginable stress to one home. My friend F…. had this story to tell about his neighbor.

It began with Mr N…..., a senior bureaucrat, informing his family that he could not get his son’s exam postponed. Equally worrying was his failure to obtain an exemption from appearing for the exam.

(The minister had told him that the rules did not permit exemptions to watch a game and even he, the Minister, could do nothing about it. He also –somewhat sternly- advised N… not to compare government employees absenting from work watch a cricket match with children wanting to miss  an exam for the same reason. To emphasize his point he even wished Junior well for his exams).

This was indeed bad news as the family had placed lot of confidence in Mr N…’s ability to manage things. Indeed, he had never let his family down before.

It was a worrisome situation. To begin with, N… had managed tickets for the best seats in the stadium. Being able to skip an exam to watch the game would have raised Mrs.  N…’s status among her friends. But this was the least of the problems. Indeed, as F…’s narration continued, the picture got more and more and more complicated.

To his parents, Junior was Indian cricket’s next big hope. It was small matter that that this view was held only by his family. But so unshakeable was their belief that they spared no efforts to ensure his smooth ascent to the summit- a place in the national team. The trip to the world cup match was a part of the larger plan, which was set in motion with junior’s school coach being instructed to pick ten of his best players.The principal exercised his discretion and chose  the eleventh. That player, of course, was Junior.

There was no dearth of well-wishers as Junior’s cricketing career continued on its smooth progress-till today.

It was a tense scene at home. Junior sulked as only a pampered child would, his mother searching for more words to berate her husband with, and Mr. N….desperately trying to restore calm.

“Dear boy,” he began, “Write your exams. We will go to Singapore afterwards. I will arrange everything”.

His wife snorted in contempt at the promise to “arrange everything”.

“Papa, I have not studied.” Junior was wailing now. “You had promised that I won’t have to take the exams”.

Mrs N… looked hard and long at he husband. “My son will not suffer for no fault of his.You have to do something”, she said. Her tone was uncompromising.  Mr N... was silent for some time.

"Hmmm. Let me see", he responded after a while.

At this point, F… paused in his narration. Every story must have an ending and, naturally, we were curious to know how N… would redeem himself.

F…. looked bemusedly at the bottom of his glass. “Would you believe it?”, he muttered,"The chap is now trying to get his hands on the question papers”.

HOWZZAT?

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