It is said that hope dies last, like the final flourish in an exquisite dance performance. However, in our case, hope died a few times. First, it died when Yuvraj Singh was declared out, as a result, of an exemplary bit of bowling. Then, post a brief resurrection, it died when Jadeja played as though India were comfortably winning, or as though he found himself in an inconsequential training match. The real death came when Hardik Pandya was run-out as a result of a mistake by his compatriot. By the time that team India lost their remaining wickets, it was sheer overkill. And at that point, it was as if hope was like a dog that had to be put down after a prolonged period of suffering. Hope had been metaphorically lifeless for a long time in our minds and the end of the match was simply a formality and merely a reaffirmation of the defeat. Our state of mind was quite visibly reflected in our behaviour- sullen countenances, drooping shoulders, shocked expressions. We had been seemingly bound by an evil spell which morphed us into lifeless statues of marble, merely present to adorn the room and add to the artistic elements. Rahul was mute, lips sealing with every falling wicket. No singing to mark the loss or to lift our spirits. Just silence. Kabir was distraught, and in a manner very unlike him, he allowed everyone present to gauge the emotions that he felt through his visage, either feeling that letting out his emotions would aid him or quite simply, and more likely, he was unable to control his expressions at that point of time. Countless thoughts buzzed around in my head. One moment, I was in denial of the result, the next, dread filled my body. The subsequent moments were a little blurry and finally piercing the silence in one fell blow, Kabir faintly uttered the word sorry and proceeded to leave. Adoksh and I followed suit. Upon reaching home, my attempts to fall asleep were perturbed by my own restlessness, I tossed and turned and finally, due to the tiredness that said movements caused me, I closed my eyes and let my dreams, or more accurately nightmares regarding our imminent thrashing consume me.
Waking up proved to be a greater ordeal given the fact that it was a Monday and that fate had abandoned us the night prior. I pushed the heavy comforter that bore down on me, stretching and forcefully rousing my aching muscles, almost like I was attempting to wake up a building full of people by loudly knocking on each door. In a swift swoop, I switched to autopilot mode and my daily routine took over. For some reason, everything seemed off, the milk mixed with ‘boost’ that I quite enjoyed every day, in a last-ditch attempt to boost my height, was awfully lumpy and had to be shoved down my throat. Dry fruits that I had or rather was made to have every day were even more distasteful than usual, virtually causing me to regurgitate all over my dining table. The bus ride was more peaceful as I occupied my customary spot near the window, rested my head on the undeviating metal, and gently dosed off. The general atmosphere in school was drab, the match having taken its toll on the rest of our classmates. My peers played their night roles as manager again, with each passing their comments and opinions on the match, and each very generously abusing the players that they felt didn’t match up to the standards, with some even calling for capital punishment. A little too passionate and a lot too crazy one could say. Dour looks seemed to be the dress code for the day, a memo which had reached everyone, including the dismal sky. Everyone apart from Deepak, who looked unperturbed and rather relaxed. His face was impassive, and no discussion of the match warranted a reaction in his eyes. Deepak appeared stolid to the rest of us, although it was to be expected. He rarely displayed emotion, reminiscent of Kabir, and was the embodiment of moderation, neither showing extreme ecstasy nor depression. He approached me, taking quick steps, “Where is Kabir?”, he inquired. “He has not come to school yet”, was the response that I gave him. “Hmpf, tell him to meet me once you see him”, he said as he returned to his group of cronies. I felt a lump in my throat and fear began to set in and beads of sweat began to form on my forehead. I prayed that Kabir would not come to school today, well aware of his fiscal incapability, and so we could thus postpone the inevitable to another day. But alas, Kabir being Kabir reached school in a few moments, prior to the arrival of Adoksh and Rahul. “Deepak asked you to meet him”, I made known to Kabir. “I’ll go to him now. Best that you and Adoksh come with me too”, answered Kabir. I nodded uneasily, turned to Adoksh who had just joined the scene and informed him of our decision and together we walked towards class with burdened strides.
“Here we are, Deepak”, announced Kabir. Deepak raised an eyebrow and walked towards and said, “I hope you have the amount.” “Well, you see the thing is-” I started off, nervously blabbering in an attempt to save our skin, “Yes we do”, Kabir stated whilst interrupting me. Earlier I was scared. Now I was scared and perplexed. “That’s good! I hoped that I wouldn’t have to resort to evil means. Give me the money!” Deepak demanded. “We don’t have it with us now, meet us in the chessboard during the tea break and take it”, Kabir replied. “Since it is your first dealing with me, I shall listen. I am quite merciful in that sense, you all should be happy you are dealing with me and not my colleagues. They would turn on anyone and since a portion of the money that you owe me is going to them, I would suggest that you do not delay further.” Deepak advised whilst managing to display his massive amount of self-pride. Once Deepak had left us, Adoksh and I questioned Kabir as to what had just happened as our bamboozled minds could not comprehend the proceedings, especially Kabir’s words. “I did what I did to merely buy us some time. You heard it yourself, we should be glad we are not working with his colleagues.” Kabir answered with a twinkle in his eyes, his statement not aiding our understanding in any way.
In the minds of many, information is the most powerful weapon in any arsenal and that the possession of key information or the ability to spread false information is oft times the most useful tool. In our school, all information passed through one person – Kabir. He possessed all of the aforementioned apparatus and could whiz up a solution to any problem. The cogs in his mind were always turning, speculation various angles through which to attack a difficulty. And at the time, no one can figure out the way he does it, with his use of information like a magician well versed in the art more commonly known as sleight of hand. Kabir had recruited a few people, who will remain unnamed, to expand his metaphoric empire and his organisation was the NSA of our school. Now, coming back to our current scenario, Adoksh and I went back to class; scratching our heads and trying to deduce what Kabir had up his sleeve. Per contra, Kabir got to work. He very casually walked up to Deepak’s more evil counterparts, drawing their attention by clearing his throat. “I hope Deepak has given you the share of money that I owed you”, Kabir declared, leaving before he could be faced with any questions. He left them in the same state that we were in – bewildered, for they had been told by Deepak that he had not received any money yet. To add fuel to the fire, Kabir staged a conversation between two of the members of his organisation within audible range of the nefarious bunch, in which they discussed a party being thrown by Deepak as he had acquired a lot of funds. In some ways similar to our mental situation, Deepak’s colleagues were first confused, now they were confused and enraged. One of Kabir’s ’employees’ then told the other that Deepak would be in the chessboard in the tea break giving out invites. Adoksh and I were unaware of these occurrences and were instructed by Kabir to come to
Adoksh and I were unaware of these occurrences and were instructed by Kabir to come to the chessboard and assume spots where we could not be spotted. We guardedly made our way to the said location where Kabir was already present and had identified an appropriate hiding spot which we took up. A few moments of quiet were subsequently followed by the sounds of heavy footsteps – Deepak’s colleagues, who plonked themselves in the middle of the quite rather large area. Next came softer footsteps accompanied by a loud whistling sound – Deepak. He had no idea who he was about to encounter and nonchalantly strolled to the chessboard. And then, for the very first them, I saw a clear-cut expression on Deepak’s face when he saw his counterparts who held cricket bats which they had appropriated from the sports room. It was now Deepak’s turn to bear a look of pure fright…
See also –
You can read the first part of the story here –