Love surmounts all odds.
Welcome everyone, to the brand new cricket contest, The Diwali Crackers. This is Sujit and along with me is Rajiv. We will take you through this thrilling competition.” Rajiv took charge with uncontrollable excitement, “Hey guys, the wait is finally over. In a few minutes from now the much-awaited contest will start but before that let me just recapitulate how it all started. Diwali signifies happiness, celebration, togetherness and what else does the same, Sujit?”
“Of course, cricket, and that is the very reason we brought them together.” The Diwali Crackers will not only illuminate Diwali night but also make the day as colourful as ever.
“Boundaries over boundaries, wickets and the unbelievable catches.
“It started with a vision but when as many as 54 clubs registered, we knew we were on the right track.
“Of those 54 clubs, 32 were shortlisted and post the league session the top eight were selected.
“Today, on the auspicious day of Diwali, there will be quarter-finals followed by semis and then the grand finale, in the two adjacent grounds.
“No more 20Twenty, it’s time for even more rocking 10Ten. Well, as you are aware, the very first match is between the home team Moulali Masters and Baguihati Blues. Just for your information the Moulali Masters have won the toss and have elected to bat, so it’s time for the electrifying Shrawan.”
The local crowd cheered as Shrawan geared up to open. He knew very well that his club was heavily dependent on him but what was even more critical, was a personal battle for him. “So here we go,” Sujit was all animated, “The very first ball, the fastest bowler to the hardest hitter! Gosh! he is clean bowled!”
Sonia felt insulted, “Well, all I wanted was to return your money, never mind.” She went away. Shrawan ran after her. “I am sorry. I am uneducated guy, don’t know how to talk to high class girls like you.”
Rajiv grabbed the mike, “What an opening for Baguihati Blues, they have got the precious wicket of Shrawan in the first ball itself. Needless to say the Moulali Masters are in deep trouble.”
The home crowd was speechless as Shrawan walked out of the ground. Instinctively, he turned around and looked at the first floor of the third building from the left. Yes, Sonia stood there on the verandah at the very same place where he saw her for the first time, exactly a year ago.
It was the Diwali of 2014. Shrawan was having his practice sessions. Joy tried to pitch in a yorker but Shrawan smartly stepped forward and converted it into a full toss and hit hard. As luck would have it, the ball lofted and broke the glass window of an adjacent building. Sonia was flared up as she walked up to the verandah. “Who did it?” she sounded upset. The guys got scared and all of them pointed towards Shrawan.
“Hey you, come here,” she told him. Shrawan came forward. “What is this?” “I don’t know much about woman’s clothing but think the green is churidaar, the pink is Anarkali but you look solid in pink,” Shrawan said in his broken English.
Sonia was busy selecting her dress for the evening programme when the ball rudely interrupted her reveries. In a hurry she carried both the dresses in her hand.
She handed over the dresses to the salesman and rushed towards Shrawan, “Mister, can you see the big hole in our window? Shrawan apologised. “Sorry, worry se nahi chalega boss, come on take out 500 bucks.”
“I don’t have much money,” pleaded Shrawan.
“How much do you have? Let’s see,” Sonia snatched his wallet. Shrawan stood helplessly as she took out the 3 crumpled ` 100 notes.
“Leave one note, I don’t have any,” pleaded Shrawan.
Sonia smiled and quipped. “Serves you right.”
Sonia along with her parents had moved into this lower middle class colony about a month back. Poor mill workers resided here. She hailed from a decent family, but her dad had to sell off everything for her mother’s treatment and had to move here. What was worse, he still could not save her. Initially, Sonia was feeling suffocated but with time she slowly started adapting to their way of living so much so she was looking forward to attending the Diwali bash that will take place that night.
Shrawan, on the other hand, was born and brought up here. He was totally cool with this tapori style of living. If anything mattered to him it was cricket. Shrawan was indeed a class act. In spite of his father’s daily admonishment he was not willing to give up on his dream of representing India and worked as an office boy in some private firm.
The Diwali bash had started. Old Hindi movie songs were dished out one after the other as Sonia walked to the field. Sonia was a stunner and she was looking very pretty in the pink Anarkali. By now she had made just one friend, Sheetal, who happened to be a darling. She had planned to make more friends that day. However, the way most of the boys and girls were dancing, Sonia started reconsidering her decision to befriend them.
It was then that she spotted Shrawan who was with his friends arguing about something. Curiously, she moved ahead. Soon, she came to know the reason for the argument. Shrawan and his friends had planned to buy crackers to celebrate Diwali. The crackers were bought but now Shrawan was unable to contribute his share for obvious reasons. Sonia felt bad.
“Excuse me, can I interrupt?” she asked.
“No,” Shrawan sounded irritated, “look, I don’t have money. If you want more, I will play a match in three days then I will be able to pay ` 200. Now leave.”
Sonia felt insulted, “Well, all I wanted was to return your money, never mind.” She went away.
Shrawan ran after her. “I am sorry, I am an uneducated guy, don’t know how to talk to high class girls like you.”
Sonia had developed a soft spot for Shrawan, “Here, take your money.”
“Thanks a lot, actually I not want to take it as I mistake but I take it for I‘m poor.” You make it really funny,” laughed Sonia. “I self Shrawan.” “I am Sonia,” she replied with a controlled smile.
Shrawan put his hand forward.
“Well,” Sonia said, “actually you should not offer to shake hands with a girl unless she offers first.”
“Oh, I sorry,” Shrawan immediately put his hand down.
Sonia giggled,” You don’t really interact with girls, do you?” “Not beautiful like you,” Shrawan admitted. “Do you join us?”
“Well,” Sonia didn’t know what to say.
“Don’t worry I and friends not as bad as you think.”
“Okay,” Sonia nodded.
It was the time of her life. Their company was amazing. No pretention, no inhibition. Sonia might have turned 17 a couple of months back, but she had not experienced the unabashed rawness of youth till that day. Sonia thoroughly enjoyed the transformation.
Post dinner, Sonia said, “Had a great time, got to go now.” “You dance I?” dared Shrawan, pointing
Sonia along with her parents had moved into this lower middle class colony about a month back. Poor mill workers resided here. She hailed from a decent family, but her dad had to sell off everything for her mother’s treatment and had to move here.
towards the dance floor. “No, I can’t dance you, I mean dance with you,” Sonia corrected herself.
“Door door se, no touch wouch,” Shrawan was absolutely shameless.
Sonia agreed hesitantly. So Shrawan and Sonia danced as the local DJ played, Aaj main hoon aur tum ho aur mohobat hai.
That Diwali was the best of Sonia’s life. “Hey, Shrawan, where are you lost? Come on, it’s our time to field,” Shrawan’s sweetest memories were cut short by Joy.
“It’s time for the Moulali Masters to fight back, what say, Rajiv?”
“Bang on, 93 is not a total they can boast off. I will have to say that Baguihati Blues are in a favourable position as of now. The first ball, what a hit by Mihir! It goes over long on for a sure 6 but wait, Shrawan has taken a near-to-impossible catch!
“Catches win matches, this is not just a wicket, this will really boost up Shrawan’s confidence and we all know if Shrawan, so performs, Moulali Masters will be unstoppable.”
Shrawan knew since it’s a low total he couldn’t allow the Baguihati Blues to settle down. He led from the front and by the third over they were three down for 26. Shrawan set up aggressive field and let his strike bowlers bowl at a trot. The ploy worked. By the 5th over Baguihati Blues scored 57 but at a loss of 8 wickets. During the break Shrawan advised Joy to concentrate on yorkers. “We can’t afford to waste the over. The rest of the bowlers are weak. Get a wicket, Joy.” Joy got both.
“What a win for Moulali Masters but we must say what captaincy by Shrawan! He has definitely compensated for his dismal batting performance.
“It’s time to move ahead. The second match will start after a 10-minute break.”
Their next match was post lunch, so Shrawan went home. On purpose he took the long route since he wanted to avoid Sonia. However, as luck would have it, he met her as she came out of the tailoring shop. Their eyes met, but Sonia turned and walked away. Shrawan was trying in vain. It’s not possible for him to forget her, ever. Shrawan was again lost in thoughts about her.
Post that Diwali night, Sonia was all over Shrawan. Still he could not think of the perfect alibi to talk to her. He knew his eyes will disclose everything. It was a chance encounter a few days later as Shrawan was going for a cricket match that he saw her. “Hi!” “Hey, where were you?” Sonia was pleased to see him. Shrawan smiled, “Going, school?”
“No going to zoo, buddhu. If I am in a uniform obviously I am going to school, from which school are you?” “Naah I athvi pass, I not study.”
“That’s so sad, why did you quit studies?”
“I mediocre student, why waste father’s money, I born to play cricket,” Shrawan posed with his bat.
“Hey, don’t mind saying but if you are not conversant in English why do you always speak in English?”
“If I not speak I not learn.” “Point,” smiled Sonia.
“You smile sweet, I like it,” Shrawan said blatantly.
“What else do you like about me?” Sonia was in a playful mood. “I like your face cutting.” “Face cutting,” Sonia could not stop laughing.
“Okay, what else?” “I like your figure, pura jhakas,” Sonia died of embarrassment.
“Never ever talk to me again, I hate pervs.”
“What pervs?” Shrawan had never heard this word before.
“I meant that you are a lecherous guy.” “Leche…. what?” “LECHEROUS,” Sonia spelled it out. “Go and check the dictionary, uncivilised, uneducated brat.” Sonia went away.
Later that night as Sonia was out for some groceries, all of a sudden Shrawan came and stood in front of her. He looked disturbed.
Sonia got scared, “I’ll shout, I am warning you.”
“No need, just say something and go.” Sonia kept quite.
“Lecherous, LECHEROUS,” Shrawan spelt it out. “Having or showing excessive or offensive sexual desire,” right? No, ma’am, I no lecherous. I cricketer, I don’t want girls, girls want me, I the local hero, you see.”
Shrawan continued after a pause, “Only one girl mad me is you, I like you so so much, got out on zero today, your angry face in front of me can’t see ball. I not talk to you, not near you but I like you.” “You are drunk?”
“Yes, high class, I drunk, why? I see in newspaper that you high class boys and girls drink party, in sexy clothes, they lecherous, I lover,” Shrawan went away.
Sonia had been proposed to at least 20 odd times, but this one would remain closest to her heart. No, one-liner, just two words, I lover, pathetic English but love is not only blind, it is deaf as well.
Shrawan was dead sure Sonia will never talk to him again but he was thoroughly mistaken. The very next morning as Shrawan stepped out of his house he saw Sonia in front of him. “Are, madam High Class, please forgive I, I promise never happen again, you brought the cops with you kya?” Shrawan looked around.
“Did you really mean it?” Sonia purposely sounded stern.
“On goodness, I 500 metres away from you always,” Shrawan reassured her.
“Not this, what you said last night, you lover?”
Shrawan helplessly nodded. “Well, you can be my boyfriend but on a temporary basis, no
Sonia pulled Shrawan so close that even the raindrops couldn’t make a way through them and then planted the longest kiss that you can ever witness in a Bollywood movie.
commitment, zaada ummeed mat laga baithna,” Sonia gave her killer smile and went away.
“Moulali Masters’ next challenge would be really tough one, the smartest, the toughest, Golpark Gamers.”
“You are right, Rajiv, I came to know a few guys of Golpark Gamers represent Bengal, let’s see what tactics captain cool Shrawan would use to stop them.”
“You can’t defeat Golpark Gamers by playing cricket,” Shrawan said in his local language as his team encircled him on the field. “They are high class, they know the game inside out.”
“So, what to do?” vicecaptain Nikhil asked.
“Well, there is only one way out, sledge, physically and mentally intimidate them so much that they get mad and make mistakes.”
“But, it won’t be right,” Joy was not ready for this. “If the Pandavas had done all the right things the war of Kurukshetra would have been won by the Kauravas. This is our Kurukshetra.”
“Pardon me for saying but Moulali Masters have left the Australian team behind in sledging.” “That’s true but I think Shrawan has used the right ploy, I don’t see Golpark Gamers winning from this situation.”
There was a late surge by Golpark Gamers, yet the Moulali Masters managed to steal a victory by meagre four runs. As they were rejoicing, Shrawan saw Sonia’s father amongst the spectators. The mastermind in their break-up. Shrawan became despondent when he recalled that incident.
Shrawan had no complaint being Sonia’s temporary boyfriend. She had tough rules though. No mobile number sharing, no touching, maintaining a minimum distance of 30 inches, no roaming around in the locality. “What kind of bf gf status is this?” It’s more like a brother-in-law sister-in-law relationship,” quipped Joy. Nonetheless, Shrawan didn’t grumble. He was more than happy to witness the pride in her face as he smashed a sixer. He was overwhelmed in her company, whatever little time she allotted to him.
Almost nine months had passed. Shrawan and Sonia were returning from a movie when it started to rain. They took shelter in a secluded bus stand. It was raining so hard that nothing was visible when just like that Sonia said, “Well, I was thinking of your probation period as a boyfriend for some while.” “And?’ Shrawan was nervous.
“It’s time to be your permanent girlfriend,” she said suggestively.
“So rules be easy?” Shrawan winked.
“No rules!” “You joking?”
Sonia pulled Shrawan so close that even the raindrops couldn’t make a way through them and then planted the longest kiss that you can ever witness in a Bollywood movie.
Alas! Sonia’s dad was vehemently against this relationship, but Sonia was absolutely adamant. She stopped going to school, stopped eating, stopped stepping out of her room.
Finally, he had to yield, “Bring him home next Sunday.” Sonia jumped and hugged her dad tightly.
So the next Sunday, Shrawan was seated in their house for the interview. “What’s your age?” “Sir, 17.” “Why don’t you study?” “Sir, I dream becoming a cricketer.”
“Cricketer,” smirked Mr Ghosh. “Anyway, my daughter has decided to be your life partner in years to come, what can I say?”
Shrawan was quiet. “To start with resume studies,” he said after a gap. “Take this number, call this guy, he has a opening of a peon in a semi-government company. Once you complete your Class 12 examination they will absorb you as a clerk.”
“Thanks, dad,” Sonia’s eyes gleamed. He patted her back. “But remember I will marry my daughter off to you only after you achieve this, not before that.”
“Sorry sir, I die death of struggle cricketer than live life of success clerk,” Shrawan replied slowly yet firmly.
“Are you out of your senses, Shrawan? Dad is doing such a favour to you and you are refusing to accept,” Sonia couldn’t believe her ears.
“Sorry, Sonia, I lover but I also cricketer.” “Get out.” It was enough for Mr Ghosh, “The next time I see you near Sonia I’ll call the cops.”
Oh! It was then that The Diwali Cracker contest was announced. Otherwise, Shrawan would have been shattered. He gave his heart and soul to the contest and Moulali Masters performed real well in the round robin league and qualified for the quarters. In these 21/
2 months Sonia neither met him nor called him and if they met accidentally on the way she simply ignored him. It was a week back that Sheetal gave the news which broke Shrawan’s heart completely. Mr Ghosh’s boss had seen Sonia at an office gathering and developed a liking for her – a liking so strong and intense that he wanted to get married to her, immediately. He was in his mid-30s but apart from that there was no flaw in him. He was very successful professionally and well-todo as well.
Mr Ghosh told Sonia everything, “It’s your call. I won’t force him on you but all I can say is that either you choose a life with him or slog every day and night in poverty.”
Sonia smiled, “Just one question, do you think he is the right match for me?”
Mr Ghosh nodded. “Then, I am ready to get married to him, for the person I love the most can’t select the wrong person for me.”
“So, sir, the whole point of sharing this with you is taking your opinion, should I or should I not marry my daughter to him?” Mr Sammadar got up and left. The moment he left, Sonia ran and hugged her dad tightly and burst into tears.
Coincidentally enough, Mr Sammadar would come to see her on the day of Diwali itself.
The moment Shrawan noticed the sweet packets in Mr Ghosh’s hand he understood that they were for the would-be groom of his beloved Sonia. However, he betrayed the emotions and walked away.
Mr Ghosh should not have stopped to watch the match. He was late. Mr Sammadar had arrived and was seated beside his daughter. The way he was looking at her and touching her, Mr Ghosh felt really ashamed that he was forcing his daughter to go through all this. Enough was enough. “Sonia, go inside, I need to have a discussion with Mr Sammadar.” Mr Sammadar was not at all happy with
his decision, “What to
discuss? Ek kapde main bhej dena thik hai. Ab bulao use, Diwali ke raat he bhai!”
Mr Ghosh continued, “Do you know, sir, why Diwali is celebrated?” “To enjoy, what else.” “No, sir, Diwali is celebrated to mark the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, hope over despair,” Mr Ghosh said in the same breath. “Why did I give my consent for this marriage? For my daughter’s wellbeing? No, I agreed since I was scared I’ll lose my job, otherwise; thus I chose darkness over light, evil over good.”
Mr Sammadar least expected this response. “We are all weaklings, sir, but then I see this boy out there playing cricket. He has chosen hope over despair. Being harassed by his dad, being coldshouldered by his love he has still been brave enough to follow his dreams. I won’t hide, sir. He wanted to marry my daughter, so I called him into my house; I am sure he was in his best attire, even then his shirt was torn. You know, Sir, this guy loves noodles. While returning home the other day I saw him standing in front of a fast food joint and desperately searching his wallet even taking out the coins to add up to 45 rupees for a mixed noodle. Too bad he fell short of a few rupees, yet he will be playing cricket.” Mr Sammadar was silent.
“So, sir the whole point of sharing this with you is taking your opinion, should I or should I not marry my daughter to him?” Mr Sammadar got up and left. The moment he left, Sonia ran and hugged her dad tightly and burst into tears. “Don’t waste time. The final is half way through, let us rush.”
“Too big a total, too big.”
“Yes, Sujit, 147. The Bangur Boys have nailed Moulali Masters.” “They will require 11 Shrawan’s to win this, even then it might fall short.
“Shrawan is walking up to the crease.” “Well, Shrawan has scored zero and 14 in his last 2 innings.
“Here goes the first ball, Shrawan has lifted it in the air, will it be the second zero for Shrawan in the day? No it’s a six. “Is it a fluke, Rajiv?” “Let’s see, here comes the next delivery. He has slammed it again out of the ground.” “Something tells me this one will be a six as well.” “Here it goes, it is a full toss and it’s the longest six of the tournament so far.”
By the time Sonia and his/her father reached the field the score was 77/3 in five overs. It was the drinks break when Joy ran in and told Shrawan that Sonia was in the field and wanted to talk to him. Shrawan walked up to her.
“Go and win it, Shrawan, for all of us.” “Why you interest?” Shrawan’s voice choked.
“I interest cause buddhu, you lover to I lover.”
Mr Ghosh interrupted, “I am sorry but I have made amends, can you recognise me?” “Dad!” Shrawan was elated.” “Go for it son, we are all with you.”
“Five overs, 71 to get, too much?”
“Not till Shrawan is there and he has removed his helmet, why this decision? Chetan is pretty fast.
“The next three overs fetched 12, 14, 18 respectively.”
“121/7, 27 to win, 12 balls to go, gettable, Sujit?”
“Definitely, as long as Shrawan is there.”
“But Chaitanya is a tricky one to read, his reverse swings are deadly,
Sonia was in the field and wanted to talk to him. Shrawan walked up to her. “Go and win it, Shrawan for all of us.” “Why you interest?” Shrawan’s voice choked.
here he goes... appeal for LBW... givennnnnn.”
“11 balls, 27 to get and two wickets in hand, tough call.”
“Here the wizard comes again. Will it be a doosra or a googly?” “No, it’s a straight one but the tail ender couldn’t read it, clean bowled!”
“Now, it’ll require a fairy-tale 27 in 10 with only a wicket in hand.”
Sonia could barely watch as the over ended.
“22 of 6 that’s what it has come to but what Moulali Masters can take heart from is Shrawan is facing at 81, well settled.” “First ball of the last over and what a shot, Shrawan sends it over the boundary at a casual ease.
“Here comes the next one, take a bow it goes for a six as well. The first over had a hat-trick of sixes, will the same happen in the last over as well?
“Will the bowler look nervous and a half volley pounded hard by Shrawan straight toward his lady love, yes it’s a hat-trick again.”
“Three balls four runs, it should be cakewalk from here for Moulali Masters. Here Sujay comes again and Shrawan could not put this one away. Two balls four runs.”
“Wait, Shrawan has succumbed to the ball that hit his chest and he can barely breathe.”
Sonia was out of control, “Dad, what will happen?” she was nervous.
“Don’t worry, everything will be all right.”
He was right and as Shrawan stood on his feet the crowd started cheering him.
“What drama, what emotion, it’s all happening at the Diwali Crackers.” “The next ball, wow, the perfect yorker, dot ball. “A ball to go! 4 to win.” “The grand daddy of all climaxes, and don’t forget Shrawan is on 99.” “Yes, Rajiv, here we go the last ball, another yorker but Shrawan has hit it hard, it should sail for six but wait Adi has caught a blinder.” “Did he overstep, no, was it a no ball, no.”
“That’s it. Shrawan is not out and Bangur Boys have won the Diwali Crackers contest.”
he prize ceremony took place in a while and rightfully Shrawan was adjudged the Man of the Match but he hung his head in shame. He could not win it for them. It was then that the sudden announcement was made, “What is Diwali without surprises? Unaware to all of us, representatives of the Cricket Association of Bengal had come to watch this tournament and they have selected a player who will be part of Bengal Under 19 team and guess who it is.”
The crowd chanted Shrawan! Shrawan.
“Yes, you are right, it’s Shrawan.”
Shrawan was dumbfounded. “I cricketer,” he said as tears rolled down his cheek.
“And, I lover,” Sonia jumped as she kissed him irrespective of everyone being around as the Diwali crackers went up into the sky to immortalise their special moment went. The secret to happiness is freedom... And the secret to freedom is courage.