Children

Test of patience

Illustrations: Sahil Upalekar  

“Uuuuuuurrrgh!” Shyam tossed the tablet aside.

“What happened?” Thatha asked, looking over his newspaper.

“I’m waiting for the new season of Fortnite to upgrade. There’s another 80% to go and it’s going to take hours. All my friends have upgraded and are playing without me.”

“Shall I tell you a story while we wait?” asked Thatha.

“Ok, but not about how you walked 30km to school every day without chappals. ”

Thatha laughed. “Ok. How about the time I once had to wait months for something I desperately wanted?”

Shyam’s eyes grew wide. “Months? No way!”

“It was 1946, and I was 14 years old, your brother’s age in fact. Where is Sachit? Maybe he wants to listen too?”

“NO!” said Shyam firmly. “No sharing.” Shyam plonked himself on his Thatha’s lap. Shyam had loved to do this since he was a baby and still did.

“Ok. This is just for you,” Thatha whispered. “I was 14 years old living in Madras. Me, your Rajan Thatha, Krishnanrajan Thatha and Rathnam Thatha were all cricket crazy.”

Shyam giggled. “You’re so skinny, I can’t believe you played cricket. Did you have a six pack like Kohli?”

“I had a 20 pack, okay! Every day, we would all go to a plot opposite The Hindu office. There’s a big hospital now, but back then it was an empty patch of land among coconut trees. Youngsters would come from across the city to play, and anyone could join in the game.”

Life altering moments

“One day, a gentleman called Venkatraman stopped to watch us play. He seemed as cricket mad as we were. After we wrapped up, he took us to a nearby hotel and bought us all coffee.”

“Thatha! You shouldn’t go with strangers! Don’t you know that?”

“You’re right, but we were lucky. In fact, meeting Venkatraman was an important moment in our lives! He thought that we were all solid cricketers and suggested that we start our own cricket club.”

“Like the Chennai Super Kings?”

“Yes! But, we had no money.”

“Why didn’t you ask your parents?”

“It was a different time. There was no idea of pocket money. We were a large family; no one was going to waste money on our cricket club. But Ratnam Thatha said he would find the money we needed. He wrote to all sorts of people — from the President of the Madras Cricket Club to Vijay Merchant.”

Shyam looked blank. “Who’s Vijay Merchant?”

“Only the finest cricketer in the land. But there was no e-mail or WhatsApp back then and we couldn’t send a Facebook message either. Everything had to be sent by post. First, we argued over what the letter would say. Then, we needed money to post it. We were too scared to ask our father, so we asked our mother. She put some money aside in a rice drum every month for emergencies. She gave us the money and we posted the letter.”

“What happened next?” Shyam’s eyes were round.

Test of patience

Test of patience

“Nothing! Months passed with no reply. It was agony.”

“Didn’t you give up?”

Thatha chuckled. “Strangely enough, no. We did other things to keep us busy. Someone at the Madras Cricket Club had promised to donate us a genuine cricket ball. So, Rathnam Thatha would cycle every day to his house and wait at the gate. After a month, the poor man got so fed up that he gave him the ball.”

“He had to wait a month for a ball? Now we can order one on Amazon and it comes the next day!”

“True. But the waiting was half the fun. It gave us something to look forward to. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

“What happened then?”

“One day, when we were eating our tiffin, our father handed over an envelope to Krishnarajan Thatha. We all were convinced it was from Vijay Merchant, and we pounced on him, begging him to see. My mother wasn’t having it, though. We had to finish our meal first.”

“MORE DELAYS! UNFAIR” yelled Shyam.

“I don’t think we’ve ever eaten our food so quickly. Then, we stood around Krishnarajan Thatha, urging him to be quick,” Thatha chuckled.

“What was inside?”

“A money order, for ₹125!”

Shyam’s face fell. “That’s all?”

“That was a lot back then, Shyam. ₹125 in 1946 would be worth thousands today. Well, after months, we finally had some money and a cricket ball. We bought ourselves a kit and a mat and set up our own club called the Jubilee Cricket Club.”

“Every day, we would rush home from school and college, load our kit onto a cycle rickshaw and go to Island Grounds. We would play until it became dark, come back home and talk about how we had played, much to the annoyance of our parents.”

“Ha! Kind of like when we talk about Fortnite at dinner.”

“Just like that.”

“But those were some of the best days. There was nothing we loved more than the game itself, and we were ready to try anything, to wait as long as we had to, just to play.”

Shyam’s phone pinged.

“Looks like your game is ready” said Thatha, picking up his newspaper again.

Shyam looked at his phone. “Thatha?” he said.

“Hmmm?”

“I think there’s an old cricket bat in the storeroom and a ball. Do you want to play?”

Note: This is a true story about how the Jubilee Cricket Club was formed by the author's father-in-law and his brothers in 1946. The club celebrates its 75th birthday this year.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 6:44:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/test-of-patience/article34552271.ece

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