I don’t think I’ll ever be cured of that cancerous moment.
The humiliation,defeat,down-caste eyes…How could I?
I mean, there’s no doubt about Kandiah’s talent. He is the fast bowler who makes stumps rattle with deathly fear. Possibly, all batsmen playing under 19 cricket this season, might have had recurring nightmares about his Yorkers. So, how could I be an exception? At the same time, how could I give him an easy second chance to get my wicket? Didn’t he humiliate me at the first innings? The same bloody Yorker, the same length and the same missile-like blazing delivery? So how could I? How could I let myself down like this?
Kandiah’s own humility was a temporary Panadol-like consolation: he did not dance a Haka after my dismissal; he did not direct me to the dressing room, like Allan Donald; when the stumps collapsed like a cut-down Banana tree, he ran away from the pitch to greet his teammates, leaving me ample space and privacy to sulk, mope and walk away.
I wanted to go home as soon as possible and bury my disappointment.
‘Othanin Passata Yanda,’ the bus conductor’s voice was irritating. The bus was full though the he continued to load people into it. May be he was under the impression that there is another bus inside this one.
Amidst pushing, the smell of sweat, irritating music in the bus, my mind was still replaying the match, with the focus on Kandiah. No doubt he is competent. And no doubt my batting was poor.
“Ayya, what happened to the match today? You’ll lost, no?”
My twelve year old younger brother Dilruk asked me sarcastically even before I opened the gate. Though he admires my cricketing talents, he grudges about the way I treat him. May be he is right? May be I lack the ability to pay gratitude? He is ambitious to play for the college’s first eleven cricket team, just like me.
“Yamalla, we lost by seven runs. But we still have a chance to get qualified for the next round if we play well in the coming two matches.” I’m not sure whether I said so to keep the spirit of the school high or just for the sake of my ego in front of malla.
“Putha shall I bring you a cup of tea?” amma asked with her undiminished affection obviously seeing frustration on my face. From the day our father died in the war, it was amma’s untiring efforts which brought me and my brother this far. She has gone through many difficulties, frustrations – at times, mild depression — and will go through many more in the future too. But, her ability to sustain herself amidst such intense difficulties makes me feel an incompetent human being. Here I am: a defeated cricketer – with nothing positive to tell my hard working amma.
Four years back, our father was killed in a raging battlefield to protect the doomed Elephant Pass army camp, which was eventually overrun by the Tigers. His death was thousand times painful, heartbreaking and disappointing than Kandiah’s Yorker. He was our backbone, a father who was so gentle and empathetic that we could not believe that he was a soldier. That LTTE bullet shattered all the stumps of our real life pitch. At that time, I simply had no idea how I could ever pick up a bat and play cricket again. Loss of a father is a strange event for a son. May be I wanted to bat for my amma and little brother. I wanted to be a father to him. I am sure there are so many like me suffering from the same war torn wounds as me.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of amma’s alarm clock at 5:00 am. My head was heavy, and my knees ached. Worse still, my mind was still seeped in disappointment. I was in no mood for school. I took the case up with my amma. She was not exactly happy about it, but when she kept her hand on my forehead to check for any sign of illness, she too felt that I needed a rest.
Malla was getting ready to go with our next-door friend Heshan, which he usually does when I do not go to school.
‘Hora, you aren’t not going school today?’ my little brother shouted teasingly.Whether I stay at home for a solid reason or not he shouted at me in the same way. He is so adorable and I liked his presence and playful approach.
‘Karadarakaraya, come I’ll hand you over to Heshan so I can stay at home without atrouble’
Though I said like that, I always felt lonely when he is not around. It’s irritating when he disturbs me, nevertheless when he is around, air seemed filled with a sense of happiness.
I tried to sleep, but could not. I tried to read, and did not succeed. So I just lay on my bed starring at the ceiling, and restless thoughts were flowing out of me like a leaked water line. This uncomfortable process was disturbed suddenly, by the sound of a loud female…Aunty Sumedha, Heshan’s amma, undoubtedly the world’s best gossip monger.
“Anne akke akke, there was bomb blast,” she spoke and wailed at the same time. Her shrill voice shook the neighbourhood like an earth quake. I still remember the intensity of that well-dressed army soldier, who threw his voice, the voice that carried the news of father’s death like a stone.
Sumedha aunty’s voice offered no difference.
We rushed to the TV. The blast had occurred, this time, in a commuter train. And it took a while for us to realize that the train, this time, was closer to home than usual: this was one my little brother took with Heshan to go to school sooner – the bus takes time in the morning. Police were handling the angry and worried crowd. Everyone was trying to get information about loved ones. No one was allowed to come closer to the blast area. Officers were advising crowds not to disturb their operations and were directed to the general hospital to locate their loved ones.
I nearly fainted, and had difficulty standing up. Amma was already dazed, like a mental patient. Sumedha aunty wailed and wailed.
I cannot lose my little prince!!!
Amma could not afford another loss of a loved one.
‘Putha how can we get some news of malla?’she asked with shivering voice.
‘I’ll go to school and check there amma’ I am not sure how I found my voice. I hurriedly dressed m and left home.
The bus was crowded as usual, but this time it was no longer a problem for me. I wanted to get to school as soon as possible. I felt sorry for the conductor who was fighting a tumultuous battle for life. I prayed at the sight of every statue, of every religion, and begged that no harm should come to my brother.
When I arrived at school, all hell had broken lose. Students, parents and teachers were gathered in groups and were talking animatedly. By now, it has been confirmed that several school kids were critically injured and rushed to the hospital. But no one was sure of names.
I looked for brother everywhere. I shivered as I ran all over the junior school classrooms. Some of his friends were there, playing, totally oblivious to the incident. But not him!
It was my brother’s voice. He came from behind and wrapped me in an unsuccessful wrestling grip, only to fall to the ground, but laughing like a cartoon character.
I could not smile. I could only go numb, and watch him – like a discarnate spirit.
I forgot myself, and everything–including Kandiah’s dashing Yorker, which humiliated me.
A Yorker can never destroy the happiness granted by a playful mischievous brother.