A Different Kid
Many people know me as a writer, like any normal man while watching any movie I used to relate myself with the hero, I had placed myself in the main character of every story I wrote so far. I am a successful man in the eyes of the society. The social network has seen millions of my followers. Surely, I am the idol to the young generation. But here’s a story where I couldn’t place myself as the leader but only a supporting character. This story I consider him as the leader.
I first met him when I was thirteen. I had passed my seventh standard and had come to my uncle’s house to take admission in high school as our village had a primary school only. It was during the summer vacation. I sat under a mango tree with my cycle by my side. The tree had weighed down by the mangoes; some were ripe, smelling delicious but my focus was over the field in front of me, where a cricket match was about to start. I was new in that city, so I had no friends. I wanted to play cricket but I couldn’t ask anyone because of my egoistic nature.
A skinny boy walked toward me straight and asked, ‘Do you want to play with us?’ I nodded my head excitedly and followed him. In the field, I came to know that the skinny boy was the captain. The total members were divided into two teams, and I was part of the skinny boy’s team. There were many elder players in our team, so I couldn’t understand why our captain was a boy of my age?
‘The boy must be a good player,’ I thought in my mind.
Our team had won the toss, and our captain decided to bat first. It was a limited over match with just twelve overs. The captain summoned everyone for discussion in a circle; we gathered under the mango tree to make our strategy for the game.
‘Generally, the captain sends a new player either to bat first or last in a match, and if our captain doesn’t send me in the opening, then I won’t get a chance to bat,’ I thought in mind.
‘What’s your name, new boy?’ our captain asked me.
‘Rakesh,’ I replied, wanting to ask his name but I didn’t ask him because of my introvert nature.
Our captain sent two other boys for the opening. I lost hope but kept praying to God against my own team’s batsmen, in spite of my guilt feeling. It was a lucky day; as one after the other, my prayers and wishes were being answered. The opening pair fell within the first over. We lost three wickets within five overs. After the third wicket, our captain sent me for batting. I was in form that day and had scored fifty in just twenty-four balls. But from the other end, wickets were continuously falling. At the end of the game, we had managed to score ninety-four runs on our board at the loss of seven wickets. Interestingly, our captain didn’t come down to bat.
‘Captain must be a bowler,’ I thought.
‘Don’t lose your heart. I’ll send you to open tomorrow,’ promised our captain to those who didn’t get a chance to bat.
While bowling, he had almost given chance to everyone including one-over bowling to me. At last, we lost that match by two wickets. Boys of our team were a little upset, and they were analyzing the game. According to them, if I’d have got one more over to bat, then we might have scored more runs.
Our captain seemed happy. He was discussing who didn’t get a chance to bowl, though he himself hadn’t bowled one over. I couldn’t understand his captaincy at all; I had seen his fielding also which was just an average; I couldn’t understand why the boy was the captain. Why even the elder teammates obeyed every decision he took? Why every team members as well as the opposite team members respected him so much? Our captain was talking with everyone amiably, congratulating our opposition team players and challenging them for the next day’s match but in a funny manner. He talked with me and asked some questions to me like where I lived, what I was doing in his town etc. I liked the personality of our captain, and I had never seen a man behaving so coolly after losing a match.
‘You played well, today,’ he appreciated while we were returning to our home on bicycle. It was evening. The west sky was turning into a shade of pink. ‘Your batting style is also impressive.’
‘Thanks,’ I replied shortly. There was a silence for few seconds. ‘You’re the captain of our team but why don’t you go for bating or bowling?’
‘I’ve no interest in cricket. I come here just to relax,’ he said softly, glancing at me. ‘I love to make friends, and in the afternoon, everyone is in the cricket field, so am I.’
‘Oh, that’s why you’re so cool after losing a match,’ I said in a criticizing tone.
‘Yes, I’m not serious about cricket,’ he said it casually. ‘Not only is me, no one of our team is serious about cricket, including the opposition team as well, even including you!’
‘I have always dreamt of being a cricketer and play for the Team India and without knowing me how is this guy commenting like this,’ I had him fired inside my mind
‘Do you know why Sachin Tendulkar is a great player?’ he continued and said, ‘He practices every day for ten to twelve hours. Practice makes a man perfect. A cricketer is not made just by some mere play of one or two hours. We have made cricket a game for our time pass and a mere sport for our entertainment. It is important to enjoy the game as that would create the real interest and so I always try to let everyone bat who doesn’t get a chance. Such players get the first priority in the next day’s match when I’m there. If we win after satisfying everyone, then it is great and if we lose then what’s the big deal. We try again the next day. At the end of the day, no one cared about the number of street matches you’ve won or lost. It is satisfaction that matters.’
His words impressed me. ‘What is your name?’ I asked.
‘Vijay,’ the captain replied.
That day I had no idea that I had met the future Prime Minister of India, one of the great leaders of the world, who would change the life and thought of people, who would show the right path to the people and become the greatest architect of our nation.
I took admission in the school where Vijay was studying. During the summer holidays, I became his friend, and after admission, we became best friends. Vijay had a big circle of friends and a girlfriend. Her name was Priya, though Vijay always clarified in front of his friends that his relationship with Priya was just of friendship, but nobody accepted it.
There are some unwritten laws of friendship. First law of friendship: You are treated as a son in your friend’s house. Vijay’s mother, Shanti, was loving and supportive, and like her name she was always cool and calm. She was a housewife. She studied up to class seven but was a PhD holder in love and affection. She loved every friend of Vijay like her own son. Not only she was the judge of ladies in her neighborhood, but would also solve any conflict or familial issue that would arise there. She always told the truth in the matters of justice, whether anybody liked it or not. Mr. Alok, Vijay’s father, was a government servant; an upper class officer in the Department of Agriculture. He was a great follower of Gandhi. He spent almost half of his salary in social work; he opened a charitable education center for poor and orphan kids where education was imparted free of cost.
The street that led to Vijay’s house was beautiful and aligned with trees on both the sides, most of which were planted by his father many years ago. The trees now became a symbol of beauty. Every man dreamed of living in that area with such natural beauty, but no one tried to make their own area beautiful like that. I made frequent visits to Vijay’s house where his parents loved me a lot and treated me as their own son. In a few years, I almost became their second son.
Second law of friendship: Your friend’s friend is also your friend. This unwritten law was creating a bond of friendship between Priya and me. Well, this friendship was very fruitful for me. Priya always came first in class, the topper of our school. Everyone was just praying to sit beside her in exam as she helped everyone a lot during the exam except Vijay as she considered Vijay her competitor.
Vijay and Priya always came to school together; nobody had ever seen them fighting over some issues. But there was a girl in our batch who had never a day without fighting. She was Ishita, the anchor of every cultural program of our school but not so good in studies. I never liked her attitude. For me, God had made a mistake of making a girl instead of boy.
Unfortunately, Ishita and Priya were best friends. So according to second unwritten law of friendship, Ishita became my friend too. Initially, I took her as a headache, but slowly I got used to it.
As the time passed, Vijay, Priya, Ishita and I became best friends. For us, Vijay was a psycho. He always read lots of books without any reason, and Vijay’s parents supported him a lot. Vijay’s father bought lots of books for Vijay every month. I also loved reading books but wasn’t as crazy as him.
One day, I had gifted an autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi to him. At that time, I had no idea what I was digging for all. Gandhi’s Clean India Vision had a great impact upon Vijay. Being inspired, he stood in front of the entire class and requested the headmaster to clean school and village by a campaign, ‘It’s our duty to keep our street and school clean. We’re the future. We have to teach the people and parents how to clean our street,’ he announced enthusiastically.
To our dismay, the headmaster loved his idea. He ordered us to join in the cleaning campaign. Initially, nobody was happy including Priya, but after cleaning our school, we felt proud of ourselves. While cleaning our streets, our parents also joined us. Within three Sundays, we were able to clean our school, hospital and our street. Vijay and I collected money from public to purchase dustbin. Ishita and Priya donated all their pocket money. We placed dustbin all over the street after every few yard intervals. The boy who didn’t know how to wash his cloth was responsible for cleanness of our street.
It was his first craziness but not the last. Vijay was against the caste system. On his eighteenth birthday, Mr Alok and Shanti received an affidavit from court in which he had changed his name. He had cut off the surname from his name in order to ignore the discrimination on the basis of caste system. His mother was shocked but surprisingly he got his father’s support.
He used to tear his question paper after every exam. He used to watch movies on exam days. He was never serious about marks. He was never worried even though he scored low marks than his expectation. According to him, ‘Life doesn’t end after one exam. Rather life will give many chances if you give a chance to life.’
Lots of time we discussed about various matters. Our discussions included world economy, business ideas, our system, film, cricket and sex. We discussed as if we were the government and the whole responsibility of the world was in our shoulders. Those days neither had social networks nor too many news channels. We solely depended over the newspaper. Vijay, Priya, Ishita and I had a habit of reading newspaper every morning and at the time of dinner. In Vijay’s colony, only his parents were bringing newspaper that was read by almost fifty people over Vijay’s street.
‘Within a month, result will come. I feel very nervous,’ I said one day being worried. ‘If I get low marks then?’
‘Why do you think about marks,’ he said casually. ‘It’s just a small exam. We don’t give the actual exam in an examination hall under the invigilation of the teachers. Rather life takes our true exam and declares the result as well. That result shows how good you are, how many true friends you make in your life, what you contribute to your society, how many people love you. Nobody remembers your marks; they only remember your work.’
‘But mark is also important for our career. It plays a vital role whenever we face an interview,’ I argued.
‘Nobody asks Amitabh Bachchan how much marks he had secured in the exam. Nobody has ever thought about Sachin Tendulkar’s marks when he got selected in the cricket team,’ said Vijay. ‘Leave all these great people. We always love the snacks of Raghunath, but we never asked him about his qualification and marks.’
I had a wide smile on my lips. Vijay was right. We used to visit Raghunath’s shop for his tasty snacks but never bothered to know about his qualifications. ‘Vijay, in case you fail in exam, then, what will you do?’
‘Then, I will reappear in the exam,’ said Vijay with a cold smile. The answer was simple but it had an inner meaning, for those who break down after facing one or two failures.
One day, our teacher questioned everyone about their idols. We all took some great legendary names as our idols. Some answered Sachin Tendulkar; some said Michael Jackson, and for some, it was Bill Gates or Steve jobs, for me, it was J R R Tolkien and Mahatma Gandhi, for Priya, it was Mother Teresa. But Vijay’s answer was different from others as always.
After the question was asked, he took his own time, stood up from his seat and looked little confused. ‘I have lots of idol in my life. First is Raghav, the man who gives newspaper in our house every day, every morning he delivers the newspaper by six o’clock, no matter whatever happens; winter or rain, everything is meaningless for him. He never fails to perform his duty. I want to be dedicated like him. Second is Harbinder, the milkman. Mom always asks me to buy milk from him because he sells pure milk without adding a drop of water; I want to be honest like him. I want people to believe me just like they have belief over Harbinder’s milk. I want to be like Ashis, a common man, who dedicated his whole life for orphan kids without any publicity,’ said Vijay excitedly. His word created a magic spell over the students and the teacher. He further continued, ‘I want to be a man like Salindra, who rushed an injured man, drenched in blood, to the hospital. Even though there were hundreds of people, but only Salindra could dare to take that man to the hospital. I always want to be brave like him.’
Nobody clapped but Vijay’s words touched everybody’s heart. Even the teacher was impressed by his words. He was always like that. His thought was always different. His vision was unusual. He denied to compromise; he wanted a perfect society. He believed that such a stereotype system must be changed; he believed that one day this world would be changed. He was a kid with a different thought; he was a different kid.