Unfinished Story – The (un)Broken Dream
Here is a story I wrote some years back. The Indispire post this week talked about unfinished stories. I have tonnes of them. Do I plan to finish it? I am not sure…
The day was warm, very very warm. It was just the beginning of October, a time when the Mumbai weather turned from pleasant to unbearable. Aseem was on his way back from a client’s place. It was a regular client meeting, with Aseem pitching in more services and products to increase revenue of his account and the client cribbing about the status of existing services. His car had broken down on the way back and Aseem dropped it at the garage. He was now walking towards the bus stop to catch a ride home. It was about 4 in the evening and rush hour hadn’t begun yet. But the air was sultry. As beads of perspiration dropped down his face, Aseem looked for a cooler shelter around the bus stop. He was wiping sweat off his nose when his eye fell on a group of 10 – 12 year olds under a tree on the other side of the road. In what seemed to be the courtyard of a municipal school, about 5-7 slum kids were fighting hard to get a go at a tattered football. But the football seemed in perpetual possession of a scrawny kid. He was shorter than most in the group, but also the fastest and quite adept at not letting the ball out of his possession. Aseem watched them for a few minutes and traveled back in time, when he slept, ate and dreamed football. A state and then national level player in his school days, he was as passionate about football as his father was against it. Memories flooding into his mind threatened to overwhelm him and so he concentrated on the play unfolding in front of him.
The other kids were trying hard but they weren’t good enough for the scrawny kid. He was beginning to look bored due to lack of competition. Aseem saw a shade of himself in that boy and even before he knew it, his feet were carrying him across the road. He pushed the gate open and entered the courtyard. At first, the boys did not seem to notice him, but then the gaze of the scrawny one fell on him and he stopped play. Even then, the ball was wedged firmly under his foot. His lack of movement drew the attention of others toward Aseem. They all stood rooted at their spots, staring at him. Aseem noticed that while most of the boys regarded him with a bit of a suspicion, fear even, the scrawny kid eyed him with blatant curiosity. There was an air of confidence about him that Aseem noticed and attributed to the knowledge of being better than his peers. It’s the “I am the King of my world attitude!” thought Aseem.
“Naam kya hai?”, he asked the boy.
“Uma” came the reply “Umamaheshwaran Gopalan”
“Football khelna pasand hai?”
“Haan. Par ye log khelta nahi hai achcha” he said, pointing to his friends. Then the finger proudly rested on his chest and he said, “Main khelta hai”
“Mere saath khelega?” asked Aseem on an impulse. His question surprised even himself. He had stopped giving in to random impulses for years now. Every action, every move, every word of his was well planned now.
The boy simply nodded and motioned for his buddies to clear up the space. He was going to take on this stranger one-on-one.
Aseem loosened his tie, placed his bag in the corner of the courtyard and came up to the centre where Uma was waiting.
They began to play and as soon as Aseem’s foot connected with the ball, he felt the all too familiar adrenaline rush back into his veins. It was his love for the game more than anything else that filled him with such unadulterated joy when he played football. When he had seen the kid play, Aseem hadn’t exactly given a thought to how easy or tough playing with him would be. But now, playing with him one-on-one he realized that the boy was good and playing with him actually required Aseem to concentrate. Aseem was thinking about this when he heard his cell phone ring. He halted the play and extracted the phone from his bag. All the boys were watching him speak on the cell phone. At the other end was Aseem’s mother.
“Hello Ma, how are you feeling now?”
“I am fine, my knees are killing me and the backache has just gone up. The headache has reduced ever since Chinna came”
“Chinna didi came? Today too? I thought she was going to be busy at her home today”
“Yes yes… she is having some guests over. But when she heard about my condition, she came”
“She is asking what she should make for dinner. I said I will ask Aseem”
“Ma, tell her to go home and take care of her guests. I will be home soon”
“Arre, she is here na, let her do it. If you get stuck on your customer meeting, I will have to stay hungry.
Can you guess where I was going with this? Should I finish this Unfinished Story? Can you help me finish it?