I stood on top of the bowling run. This was the fifth ball of the over. Many thoughts came crowding in rapid flashback.
The wife was berating me. "What good are you? You could not earn in 40 years what these youngsters earn in 40 seconds? And they are the adulated heroes of the country." I countered that we had our own real heroes that did the country proud.
"Hun," she retorted sarcastically. "You will again talk of Piru Singh, Abdul Hameed, Sekhon and others who won the highest gallantry medals. And of course Ashok Chakra awardee Umed Mahra of your own battalion, who died fighting insurgents."
During her pause for breath, I underscored the point that these were the people who ensured that we as a country live in peace and safety. Her retort was swift: "And who knows them in the country? Remember how our six-year-old granddaughter cried when she watched on the TV that her favourite cricketer was arrested."
I knew I was on feeble footing but did not give up. "When she grows up, she will learn". "You think so? Go to any school or college, name your war heroes and see the blank faces." I was fumbling for words when she further asked, "Didn't you read about the son of Albert Ekka, the 1971 Param Vir Chakra winner, pulling a cycle rickshaw to eke out a living?" And then driving in the final nail of irony, she asked, "And who brought even this to light; a journalist from Bangladesh?" I had lost speech.
Transferring the ball on to my right hand, I bent forward to signal that I was honouring the agreement. Then I rubbed the ball three times on my trousers to indicate the number of runs I intended to concede. Wiping my brow from left to right was my way of telling the batsman that
I would be bowling to the right. He repositioned himself accordingly, exposing the stumps; though in rival teams we had rehearsed all this minutely. The fielding captain moved a player away from where he could have taken a catch in case the ball was lofted. All this while, the umpire had held up his extended arm signalling me to wait and thus allow time for bets to be placed. His packet, like everyone else's, would be delivered before the next sunset.
The whole thing was working like a well-oiled machine. I felt a kind of thrilling triumph that we could fool millions who watched. Though there was always that small lurking apprehension, if not fear, that the authorities may come calling. Curse modern technology in tracking every blessed thing.
I started on my 16-step run. I could picture every eye glued to my action. Thick wads of greenbacks fleetingly flashed before my eyes.
When halfway, I heard the dreaded knock. My heart stopped as I froze in mid-air, almost levitating. A shake came next. "Wake up," the wife said.
As I opened my eyes, I hazily saw the maid standing with the tea tray. "Are you ok?" the wife asked with genuine concern. After all, it is not healthy for a septuagenarian to wake up drenched in sweat.
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