Union Jack

| 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.

Anuj Bhogilal, on the right, with his childhood friend Rahul Patel

50 thoughts on “Union Jack

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  1. Wow Anand – love this piece. Thank you for sharing.

    It brought a big smile ….. but also a lump in my throat. I think of Anuj at the most random of moments and wonder what masti he would be upto during these worrying times.

    You have touched upon so many of Anuj’s quirky and wonderful traits. He was ahead of his time in so many ways.

    All of us sport our “Prime” jackets from Fab India today but Anuj was rocking them all those decades ago as you see in the photo above! Sadly, it’s the only photo that I have of the two of us together but my memories are plentiful and so vivid.

    Warmly,

    Rahul

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Anand,what an inspiring story.

      You have a fantastic gift to relate any incident and make it so Interesting!!!
      Your style of writing and command of the Language never seizes to amaze me.

      The resolve of your friend,just goes to show , that if you dream big,you can achieve your dreams.
      The universe conspires to help us.

      Maybe if we use this optimism at this Corona time ,it will help to drive this menace away!!One never knows.
      Thanks a lot Anand.Stay blessed
      Mina

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anand- I am saving this article to show to Nikhil and Tara in a few years:) You have said, in 1 short anecdote what I always communicate as ‘big imagination’. Or ‘think big’..

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Our Anuj was a born leader who would fight for justice bravely . His south Bombay Malabar hills building had two lifts – one for the flat owners and other for staff working in the building. He strongly objected to this and fought for equality till his end. Had he been alive today, he would have been an inspiring leader in public service. We still miss you Anuj beta

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahhhh…very inspiring ..article.
      (The noon sun paused in the sky so that it could soak in our wonder and disbelief.)
      I really liked the sentence you wrote above. The sentence structure is unprecedented. Only a true and emotional writer can write such an excellent article.
      God bless you

      Like

  4. I am grateful to your friend Anuj( amazing gift) for his Pure Love to bring change precedes beyond fear. His beautiful energy has been captured wonderfully with your words. It is always a pleasure to read your post, thank you so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Beautifully written, Ananda – you have a lovely way with words. A reminder that we can affect things much more than we realise…which is sobering in one way but also very empowering. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very touching & Inspirational… particularly in today’s adverse times it becomes all the more relevant. It’s all in the mind .. half the battle is won when one has the guts to challenge the established traditions .
    Stuff what true leaders like Anuj are made off .. hats off to his spirit and your articulation !!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. i read that with a smile on my face through out!!! – your stories feel so real!!!
    and love the way you have described Anuj. You really have a gift in the way you write.
    keep them coming.
    and stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anand so beautifully written. It not only touched my heart but brought Anuj alive – planning, playing and then winning against all odds.
    In such a short time he left imprints that were enormous. Miss him so much The country misses him The world misses him. Specially in these turbulent times. If he was there he would have done something totally unique.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey Anand,
    You can easily sell rights of this story to a film director, and it will make a good Bollywood film! All the masalas are there, funny, serious, suspense, positive result, etc.
    Fun!!
    Thank you for sharing a part of your childhood I could participate in!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Beautifully written & articulated.
    Anuj came as though he was Vishnu’s avtar , so surreal so mesmerizing so indigo … but soon the dev’s started imploring to Vishnu as the heavens wept for him and Vishnu happily yielded by bringing him back to the heavens . Mankind’s loss was the gods gain.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Dear Anand . I am sure the below anecdote , would be, rather should be, the Tharaka Mantram for your success in your entire life.

    ” Let life throw us whatever hardships it can. We will remain undefeated right until the end.”

    With warm regards,

    KRV

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Anand, what a marvellous piece of writing! And what a way to honour your friend, with love, humour and candid observation that lit up your whole essay!
    I would love to write ✍️, but hold back for want of the gift of colour … a gift very few people have.
    Thank you 🙏🏽 so much for
    Sending me your posts, feel special!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anand – what a great moving story and excellent style of delivering it. We should all have belief in ourselves in whatever we wish to do and follow Anuj’s drive and ambition. Definitely you will sorely miss him. He is in a better world with our Gods. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Superb writing dear Ananda. I was captivated, astonished and inspired.

    Thank you for opening a little doorway onto your adolescent life – I went through it and came back smiling. I agree with your friends who commented that this would make a stunning movie storyline…

    – ml

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Superb narrative and very topical. Has all elements of defection, stratergy and all other elements. Union jack can give a “run” to Inner edge.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  16. What a fantastic story – I was moved. Beautifully written too.

    When I was at school in the Scottish Lowlands (a tough enough local comprehensive) cricket was seen as a ‘cissy’ game, and worse than that, English. My mate and I had to organise the cricket team ourselves – which means I carry the distinction of opening the batting and the bowling for my school side, despite my enthusiasm far outweighing any actual ability.

    I love that your friend called the team Union Jack. Despite being Scottish down to the wood, cricket is still my abiding passion. They do say that it was invented to allow the English, as a deeply non-spiritual race, the chance to understand the concept of eternity…

    Thanks for checking in on my site.

    Like

  17. Beautiful writing, Ananda. I am more of a baseball kind of girl, but the beauty of hitting a ball with a bat, and the friendships it forges between boys is a very special thing indeed. Glorious!

    Like

  18. Anuj seems to have been ahead of his times. He was a nationalist when that was not fashionablle. This was a brilliant story of an underdog who succeeds at last.

    Like

  19. Everything you write is such a journey, Anand. I could not help but be taken in by the larger story but also by the tiniest detail ad turn of phrase. So beautifully expressed, even though it is such a bittersweet story. Thank you for sharing, as always 🙂

    Like

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