<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
A hyperactive spirit
Selva was easily the most unforgettable character in all of my younger days. As the cliche goes, one could either hate him or love him, the latter with catastrophic consequences. But it was next to impossible to ignore him. He grew up in the same neighborhood, although in a different school.
His family was well known around the entire area. Parents who held great responsibilities and kindly grandparents for whom the well-being of the neighborhood was of paramount concern.
Should any member, great or small in the neighborhood, be hospitalized for breaking a limb or surgery of any kind, they would promptly swing into action, spending ample time with the patient, leaving late after ensuring the afflicted and those staying back had eaten and retired for the day. When any parents temporarily left the town for a wedding or a funeral, Selva would turn up in school, with an extra tiffin carrier bearing home-made food. An evening inspection would follow, to make sure the home-alone children were not trying their hand in their kitchen. They had become an extended part of everyone's family.
The boy was an exception though. I had run into him a few times in the locality. He finally switched to my school and ended up in my class. School reopened for III Std after summer. First day, I had just noticed him run in to his seat which was right in front of mine. Just as I was about to greet him, the class rose for prayer, with folded palms. I closed my eyes and stood up, only to be disturbed few seconds later by the newcomer, who had turned back and was grinning at me.
That was the best portent for the academic year. Life would never be the same again for our batch. Games Hour on the very first Friday ended in complete chaos - Selva punched the unruliest brat from the next section and 30 minutes later, the school playground presented the incredible sight of about fifty little devils chasing and kicking each other all over the playground. I still remember my II Std deskmate laughing and lashing out at me, cleverly dodging the return dosage. We all returned home in dusty uniforms, barely a week after buying them.
The years passed eventfully. We had graduated from Thirudan Police, Hide-n-Seek to Cricket. Atleast the few of us who joined bigger boys in our neighborhood for unlimited games, the weekend inter-colony matches adding to the attraction. Madan was my best friend. A stable chap mature beyond his 10 years. Every Monday the two of us used to swap stories about the 'matches' in our respective localities.
As for Selva, the only occasions he showed persistence was when getting under someone's skin. Whatever game he played, he made sure the rules were watered down to suit his ends. One rainy afternoon, we were playing Scrabble in my home. The fact that you had to cobble together a word from 7 random letters irked him no end. As I returned from the kitchen bearing coffee, I was greeted by the amusing spectacle of Selva turning around the Scrabble pieces, ferreting out the letters for the word he had in mind. And that's how he played all noon.
Our best exchanges were reserved for the cricket field. When Selva batted, the bowler had no ghost of a chance to view his target. Selva stood almost directly facing the bowler. He hit the ball like Richards but exercised his grey cells like Srikkanth. If we got bowled out soon, he gave us the perfect start from the opposition. With the safest catcher at mid-wicket, I would pitch it short outside off. A mishit might go for four but almost always his pre-meditated hoick would safely go to the waiting fielder. If we chased, we loved to frustrate him off by defending watchfully and not losing wickets. Gaaji adikaradhula dhaan pasanga kuriya irupaanga :) Who wouldn't like to occupy the crease and make the opposition sweat, especially if the bowler had just recklessly thrown his wicket away? But he had his own ideas. If we closed in on the target, he would pester us to let him concede and insist on a fresh game, hoping the toss would get them to bat first. If we refused, generous full tosses would follow. They would be gently patted back with great respect. Any hit to the outfield would be retrieved by a walking fielder. An over took ages to complete.
As far as bowling went, toeing the line was a literal no-no for him. He would happily overstep to steal an extra foot of pace. Now our Friday Games Hour started with some Handwriting work, the ones to finish got to pack their bags and play. Being a slowcoach, I often turned up late missing the formation of the teams. There would be around a half-a-dozen games on in parallel. I would spend the hour loitering around the ground, pausing to watch any game that caught my interest. Once I noticed Madan umpiring a game, with Selva coming on to bowl. Madan was not the kind to allow any handicaps in his beloved game. I leant back comfortably on one leg against a volleyball post, following the action with gleeful expectation. My moment came promptly.
Selva sailed past the bowling crease and let go. Madan's hand shot out. No ball.
The bowler walked back quietly and let fly the next one. No ball.
Third ball. No signs of remorse still and past the bowling crease. No ball.
-Yennaya umpire, eppa paaru no ball-le solra? Selva shouted, scowling in anger. His skipper ran in from the deep. Madan explained in defence, pointing to where his foot was landing
-Inimael No-ball ellaam kedayaadhu, Selva declared with finality and walked back to his mark, not bothering to heed anyone's opinion. Disappointed, I moved to a different game.
They did ask me to be the umpire once. Hardly an over had passed before the ball was tossed to Selva.
And I promptly went forward to freshly mark the crease, drawing an emphatic line with my foot. I will make you repeat if you pass this, I told the bowler, pointing to the line with a gleam in my eye.
First ball and Selva flew past the crease. I called. He protested as usual. The skipper ran in. The bowler insisted on framing his own rules. Alright, I told the captain, I wont add to the score but if a wicket falls, the batsman will play on.
Play did go on. The bell rang and it was time to call off the game. Selva ran in one last time, the batsman skied and the catch was brilliantly taken. The bowler and fielders gheraoed the catcher with whoops of delight. I hurriedly rushed towards the little party.
Listen all, the batsman remains not out. That was a no ball, I said having the last laugh.
They trooped off the field in silence. And I recollect the incident whenever Murali takes a wicket.