NANDINI NAYAR

Ashish was happy that he could now play cricket with the Rao brothers. But what about Anu and her friends? What would they do without Ashish?

How could anu think that he would continue playing babyish games with her friends when he had friends of his own?

It was going to be the best summer vacation of his life, Ashish thought happily. A month of playing cricket! Till last year vacations had meant playing with his younger sister Anu and her friends. But things had changed after the three Rao brothers had moved in to the apartment complex. Ashish had realised that he could now play with boys his own age instead of with his sister's friends and the Raos loved cricket too!

Bat and ball

When he announced his plans to his family, Anu instantly asked, “And what about me?”

“You've got your friends!” Ashish said.

“They want to play with you too,” Anu said, “They like you, and the games you make up…..”

“I've already told my friends that I will play cricket with them!” Ashish said.

“And my friends?” Anu demanded. Ashish tried to think of an answer but couldn't. Anu's question haunted him. How could Anu think that he would continue playing babyish games with her friends when he had friends of his own? It wasn't fair! After all, he had a right to his own life. And to a month of cricket too.

Ashish was up early the next morning and was leaving, cricket bat in hand, when Anu wandered in. She watched him leave and though she said nothing, her forlorn expression stayed in Ashish's mind. How had she assumed that he would continue playing with her and her friends? Admitted, he'd had fun in the past. But things were different now — he had friends of his own and didn't want to be seen playing with the younger children. And yet he couldn't shake off the feeling that he had betrayed Anu, making it difficult for him to enjoy his first day of cricket.

When he got home he found Anu's friends gathered there, sunk in such gloom that they refused to even talk to him. All the joy of his morning of cricket evaporated and Ashish felt as if he had somehow let down his old playmates. The feeling became stronger when he heard Anu declare gloomily, “This is going to be the worst vacation ever!” Ashish thought of his own dreams of having the best summer vacation ever. Could he enjoy his summer at the expense of someone's happiness? What could he do then? Ashish turned over the idea that had just sprung up in his mind and then, before he could change his mind, walked up to Anu and her friends to say, “You could all come and play cricket with us!” in his most casual manner.

“Play cricket with you and the Raos?” Anu asked suspiciously.

Ashish nodded though he hadn't asked his new friends for their permission. If the Raos objected to his friends, then he would stop playing with them. He smiled as the room erupted into a shout of joy. It probably wouldn't be the best summer, cricket wise. But who cared? This way it was sure to be the happiest summer. For everyone!