| 3 MINUTE READ | All it takes is one fearless heart
When I was 11 years old, I realized through a game of cricket the thrill of being close to those driven to realize what others around them deemed as foolish.
During the lunch breaks at school, each class would organize into cricket teams and compete in a league tournament in the garden. Stumps were sketched with chalk on the trunk of coconut trees, located close enough to the wall to allow a slip fielder to take two steps back into deep third man.
I wasn’t selected to be a part of my class team. Nor was my late friend Anuj, whose passion for the game compensated for his lack of talent for it. Though neither of us merited a place on the team, Anuj saw in his exclusion a grave injustice. He was clear something had to be done.
We were a class of 40, from which 11 had been picked for the class team. Anuj decided to form a rebel team from the remaining 29. The winners of a challenge match would officially represent the class.
I was conscripted to be his Vice Captain. I remained reluctant and actively discouraging of this unnecessarily dramatic and clearly ill-fated exercise. I embraced things as they occurred. If they seemed unjust towards me, I ignored them or picked a short fight followed by a long sulk. High on impulse and devoid of strategy. So despite my objections there was something about Anuj that fascinated me – his stubborn refusal, his irrational vision, his manic resolve and their culmination into an unexpected injection of adventure into my life.
Anuj was a nationalist, at a time when this quality sat quaintly in south Bombay circles – immersed in exploring the westernized mind, in acclimatizing itself to an incipient affluence – and the seamlessness between the two. He dreamt of being the Prime Minister of India one day – an aspiration met with derision from his friends and admiration from their parents. As a Class 6 student in 1981, not only did he have an extensive collection of Beatles cassettes and t-shirts, but was familiar with what article 370 meant, had strong views on the capitalism vs socialism debate and the natural confidence of an entrepreneur – never clinging to that which he knew he could create.
He also had a sense of irony, which made him decide that his team – born as an act of rebellion – would be named the Union Jack.
The official class team was bemused by our proposal and readily agreed to the contest. The dates were fixed and our team began to practice. During our training routine, we noticed that we were hopelessly weak in everything except a misplaced enthusiasm for all the new found attention we were receiving. Since our practice sessions were done in the open yard behind our school, our adversaries got a ringside view of our ragtag team. While Anuj rode home in his car, a bunch of desperate and doomed losers became the target of ridicule in most evening school bus conversations.
But two days before the games were to begin, Anuj engineered two key defections from the class team. The exact details of how that happened remain a mystery. A strike bowler and an all-rounder from the class team decided to put their lot in with us. The bowler lived in our neighborhood and had a penchant for disruption which Anuj managed to constructively channelize. The all-rounder was a boy high on talent but low on confidence, whose true worth emerged post what I can only imagine was a hypnotic conversation with Anuj.
In response to much protest about equity and fair play, Anuj argued that the freedom for each one of us to choose was paramount and overrode our collective ideas of what seemed fair. Since nobody was able to frame a clear rebuttal, this position was accepted as mature and reasonable. In any case, they had nine good players and we now had two. This was the basis on which the games finally began.
Over two grueling weeks, the texture of the match gradually inched from being hopelessly one-sided to a more tantalizing evenness. On the final day, the last wicket fell to unveil an incredible victory. The noon sun paused in the sky so that it could soak in our wonder and disbelief.
To begin with an utterly improbable premise and navigate it towards fruition is amongst the few things that unshakably cement in a young mind the belief that there is more to the world than what meets the eye. That one fearless heart has a capacity that far exceeds the limitations of many tentative minds.
The Union Jack team never played with the other classes. By then anything more was purely academic. The real experience had been won. Let life throw us whatever hardships it can. We will remain undefeated right until the end.