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Monday, August 5, 2013

Shivaji Park Messi

Every morning I take a taxi to work. It's usually an uneventful ride. There's not much traffic going North and the journey is quiet and cool. I make it a point to explain the location to the driver thoroughly when I get in so I don't need to keep telling him. I want to zone out. The taxi ride is a great time in my day: when no one can talk to me and I can just empty my mind.

But one thing does interrupt my day dream. As I take the turn after Tamnak Thai, at Shivaji Park towards Dadar, I get a ten second glimpse of the people in the park. There are old men walking purposefully, taking life a step at a time, a day at a time. The drunks haven't yet woken and still lay sprawled across stone benches. There is usually a group of would-be cadets being put through their paces by a drill sergeant. Whether they are actual recruits or just a bunch of lads getting whipped into shape by an enthusiastic ex-armed forced uncle (we all have one), I'll never know. But the highlight of it all is the football game that the tiny little local school kids have going.

Because of the speed at which I pass the sliver of park, I get to see just a few moments of their game. The pitch is totally muddy because of the monsoon rains and the standard, if it could be any worse, is lowered further. There are 12 kids who look around 9 or 10 years old. Their are dark skinned and skinny and their uniforms are faded white-brown. They aren't wearing shoes, only modest sandals. The ball looks so big next to their little feet; it must hurt when they kick it. What I usually see is all 12 kids running towards the ball, screaming in excitement, with great big smiles on their faces. When any of them get near the ball, they boot it as hard as they can towards where they think the goal is. I passed a number of such vignettes and often wondered if they were ever able to score a goal. But one day, something new happened.

As I took the turn, the group of kids were spread out across the pitch and they were all looking towards the goal nearest to me. Bearing down was a thin little girl in a tattered skirt and pig tailed with white flowers in them. The ball must have broken her way because she was one on one with the goal keeper. She pumped her arms and managed to catch up to the bouncing ball about 5 yards away from the now terrified keeper. The ball was bouncing knee height, away from her and towards the goal. She cocked back her right leg and pulled the trigger. I don't know if it was because I was passing perpendicular to her run and the ball's trajectory, but it all seemed to happen in slow motion.

She walloped the ball (off her shin) and it flew in. She had done it! She threw her arms in the air and screamed and jumped with joy. It was the greatest 5 seconds of my life. I passed the park at exactly the right 10 seconds that morning. Had I taken longer to wear my socks, I'd have missed it. But I saw that girl's delight that day and it has filled me with joy ever since. I will never forget the happiness and satisfaction in her beautiful voice. She had done it! I don't presume to know what the troubles in her life are, but for those 5 seconds they didn't matter. She was the best. She had conquered everything. She must have kicked the ball and chased after it so many times without success. But for this moment, it was all worth it. She had won.

And then, I was gone - whisked away in an indifferent yellow and black cab. The taxi driver and the city had taken no notice and gotten on with their lives. But I saw her joy and a little piece of it will live in my mind forever and that's all that counts.


1 comment:

Agent H Chenthil said...

Very touching and beautiful, Shravan..