Wednesday, March 29, 2006


People still ask me, “How?”

I still reply, in one word, “Football!”

They smile, grin, laugh out loud or stare incredulously. I smile back.

It has been four long weeks. Earlier, on an average fifty people used to ask me everyday. Then it became twenty. Now it is one or two per day. And I still smile and reply. I never knew I had so much patience with people!

It was four weeks ago. After a long day at work. The bus was at 7PM. There was a call at 7:30, which I had decided to take from home. As fate would have it, the call was not for me to attend.

There was still some time for the bus. We decided to do something different. We used to play football often in the evenings. We decided to shift our venue to the new sports building which is coming up near our office. It was not yet ready, work was still going on. The basketball court was almost ready. We decided to play there. It was much larger than the place where we usually play.

The game started in good spirit. Teams were distributed with the usual toss of hands! Everyone lift their arms, bring them down and hold them near waist height. Those who keep their palms facing downward are put in one team, the rest in the other. The toss is repeated till an appropriate combination is reached. We had an odd number of people that day, seven. So results were reached faster. I started in the four member team.

The game started like any other day. Subrato, Anant and Anupam were our opponents. The game was pretty even to start with. Anupam and Anant are two of our better players and in spite of being one player short, they matched us pretty evenly or more. Subrato’s extra enthusiasm more than overcame his lack of skills. I was particularly sluggish to start with that day. We also had the rookie Sachin in our team. Then there was Anand whose ventures in to the football field are about as sporadic as a solar eclipse. Santosh was of course there, but he could not match the combination of Anant and Anupam.

They scored a goal right at the beginning. A few wrong passes, total lack of any semblance of team work, and a few of the worst defense mistakes, and there we were, one goal down. This is where the memory gets a bit fuzzy. I think we scored back. Rather, I should say, I feel, we scored back. I don’t remember scoring or coming anywhere close to their goal. And then I became excited and launched into one of the better moves of my footballing career!

I trapped a ball at our defense area. I don’t remember whether it was a successful tackle or an intercept, but there I was with the ball, in our defense. The ball was bouncing, and not rolling. I had it perfectly in control. I lifted it over the head of Subrato, who was approaching me fast, rushed past him, and trapped the ball again. As I ambled along towards their goal, Subrato, incensed at being passed, charged at me. This was where the inherent snaily sluggishness of the human mind came into the picture.

If the mind could think really fast, I would have thought, “What’s the point of trying to out-run Subrato? Running fast on a hard surface is so dangerous! There is a chance of injury, and over the long run, even the knees may get over-stressed. I would be much better off if I were to slow down, let him pass, then maybe dribble past him. Of course I can dribble past him! And even if I cannot, what’s the big deal? I mean it’s only a game. It’s not like this is the end of the world! So I should slow down with the ball, maybe even stop.”

If the mind could think really fast, Subrato would have thought, “He is going really fast, probably faster than me. What can I do? Maybe I could pull his shirt and stop him? Nah! That would be unfair & unsporting. Maybe I should put my foot in front of him somehow. No, that wouldn’t do either. Whether I get the ball or not, I will bring him down. He may get injured. He is after all my friend, and more importantly, my supervisor! There is an off chance that I may just get the ball, but is it worth risking a serious impact on my career? Let alone my career, I don’t want to hurt him, he is such a nice guy! No that’s also out. Maybe, I could…”

But as my luck would have it, the human mind cannot think so fast. All I thought in those two seconds was, “Subrato! Run!!” And all Subrato thought was, “Stoppp!” So I ran, and he put a foot in front of me…

The rest happened as if in slow motion. Or perhaps the mind is capable of speeding up, but does so only at the wrong moments, just to jeer us! I saw Subrato putting his foot ahead of me. I moved the ball to my right foot and beyond his. I didn’t have enough time to change the line of motion of my left foot. It got caught in his foot. I could sense myself falling … the mind was fast, the body wasn’t. I couldn’t propel myself to a better position. I came down crashing at a hundred miles an hour, and hit the deck with my left elbow. I probably have a very strong left elbow, so not much happened to it. The force however, as Newton tells us, got transmitted through the bone, and pushed it out of the socket at the left shoulder.

It has been four long weeks. People still look at my arm in a sling, inside my shirt, and ask, “How”? At least one person asks me the same question every day. Today was no exception. I, however, changed my reply today!

I smiled and replied in one word, “Soccer!”