This is a short story for children in the age group of 11-17. I penned this as part of a training project to teach children the value of active listening.
It was the cricket tournament week at school and Sharan was excited. Everyone knew that Sharan was one of the best all-rounders of Atria high school. It was the first time he had qualified to play at the under-17 district level, inter-school tournament and the first match against Rockdale High was on Friday morning.
Sharan had worked hard to get to this stage. He was not just talented, but hard-working and committed to his game. The only grouse that his parents and teachers had with him was that he would not listen to them. He was a day-dreamer, who tended to be in his own world when he needed to be alert and attentive. Many times, he had missed easy catches while fielding, because he had been thinking of something completely irrelevant, like his evening snack or his home work. He had even become 'out' some times while batting, because of his lack of focus for the required periods of time on the pitch.
It had taken great effort for his cricket coach, the eminent cricket icon, Shivaji Galoankar, or just ‘Shiv sir’ to the boys at school, to get Sharan into his best form. Finally, after two months of vigorous practice, three members of Sharan’s class, namely Mrinal and Kutub were shortlisted to be part of his school team. Kutub was chosen as a substitute player, who would only sit in the stands and watch the game, unless any of the other players were injured and unable to play.
As was the norm, that Saturday evening, Sharan waved goodbye to his teammates at 6 ‘O clock, promising Shiv sir that he would be at the tents on Monday evening, for practice.
Shiv sir was an amiable, but strict coach. He had given the team a host of instructions on the norms that were to be followed by them, until the big game on Friday. As usual, Sharan had mentally zoned out, after the first two minutes of the lecture. He had bowled well and taken three wickets during that day’s practice and began to replay the glorious moments when Akshay had been clean bowled at the crease. Soon, he had to stifle his yawns, even as he pretended to listen to Shiv Sir’s booming voice.
‘Keep up the spirit, boys!’ Shiv sir had patted each boy on the back before sending them on their way.
Sharan cycled towards home slowly, reliving the moments of the game. Akshay had glared at him, while heading back to the stands. He knew that many boys were envious of his perfect off-spin that made even experienced batsmen wary of him.
‘I’m going to show these fellows who I am, on Friday.’ Sharan began to fantasize again. ‘I’ll get atleast five wickets within the first hour of the game, that’ll make me famous even in Rockydale High. Why, I’ll even qualify for the state level game…’ Sharan was lost in his beautiful reverie, when he heard the familiar gong of the icecream cart across the street.
Sharan slowed down the bike, he was hot and sweaty. 'All I need now is a cool ice cream...’, he thought.
He was already drooling at the orange sticks that a couple of kids were enjoying by the vendor’s cart.
‘No roadside food or drinks for another week, boys!’ Shiv sir’s warning echoed on his mind, even as he handed the twenty rupees to the smiling vendor.
Had Sir said that today during the after-practice lecture? Or was it last week’s session?
Shiv could not remember, he had not been paying attention. Besides, sir always said the same things to them every week.
‘How will sir know?’ Sharan bit off a piece of bright orange and let it slide down his parched throat.
‘Ah, this is heaven!’, he smiled, as he took another bite of the deliciously cold chunk. It was almost dark when he reached home and settled down to finish his homework an hour later.
Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. But Sharan was feeling terrible. The fever that had been slight last evening was raging at 100 degrees this morning. Monday evening’s practice had been a disaster, because he had felt weak and unable to play, because of his aching limbs. Shiv sir had sent him home earlier than usual, instructing him to visit the doctor as soon as possible.
‘Typhoid’, said the doctor after the piercing injection was administered on his arm. ‘Take these antibiotics thrice a day. Bed rest for atleast a week.’
Sharan had been aghast. His mother had tried to console her boy, but he could not stop the tears from flowing down his face.
‘It’s alright, my boy. There is always a next time. You take care of your health now. And don’t worry, we shall still win the tournament, Kutub will take your place in the game…’, Shiv sir was kind and understanding over the phone.
Oddly enough, this time Sharan listened actively to every word. He had learnt the lesson of a lifetime.