“Get out here man! Sachin is playing really well today. Just look at him go.” my friend called out.
“Two minutes. I’m doing something here on the computer.” I told him.
“Shame on you! Secretly watching porn when your friend is in the same house. At least call me in too, if you’ve got something good there.”
“Okay dude, that just sounds weird on so many levels. How desperate do you think I am? And the last thing I want to do is be around you when you are watching porn!” I said trying to sound serious and offended as I entered the hall.
“I knew I had to say something like that to get you out here.” he laughed realizing he had succeeded in his efforts to gross me out. “What the hell do you keep doing on the computer all the time?”
“Just some friends, rey.” I tried dodging his query to no avail.
“And what do you call this fine five-foot-eight, 70 kg thingie that’s sitting on your couch right now?” he said in fake aghast. “Why do you have to go online for ‘friends’ when you have me right here?”
“Do I question you so much when you call me to say : ‘Cover up for me I told my folks I’m hanging out with you’?”
“Well that’s when I’m out on a date or something. You don’t even have a girlfriend what do you want me to ‘cover up’ for?” the five-foot-eight thingie couldn’t quite get my drift. I decided to let him decipher my ‘cryptic’ message on his own. Just like that experiment in psychology class with the monkeys.
“So…what are you saying?” he fumbled and mumbled.
I thought to myself, if only creationists could see this, they’d believe the Darwinian theory in no time.
Somewhere a light bulb started to faintly glimmer in his head.
“Do you have a girl situation or something….because the last I remember was that you liked that girl from class who wanted to date only guys who were interested in taking up a career in history like she intended to. But that was like half a year ago”
“Wow, do you even listen to me anymore? The girl half a year ago was a different one dude. She was the one who used to add an extended ‘yaaaaaaa’ to the end of each sentence, remember?”
“Oh yaaaaaaa!“ he laughed imitating her.
“Ya, yaaa! At first I thought she was so cute, yaaa. But then she opened her mouth, yaaa.” I joined in and we both chuckled till we realized the joke was getting old and that we should use it sparingly lest it should lose it’s comic worth.
“So who was the girl I was talking about then?” he asked.
“Well she came after “Fake MPD Girl” and “Let’s be Special Friends” girl, remember?”
“Oh yeah I remember “Fake MPD Girl”. We used to say ‘Hi’ to her thrice to make fun of her.” he said as we waved thrice at each other and laughed again.
“Hey but the other girl didn’t seem so bad. I remember you telling me that you were supposed to meet her because she had something special to give you. What happened there? Haan haan.” he suggestively winked at me.
“Promise rings.” I said.
“Promise what ?” he said…lost again.
“Promise rings, dude. You know one of those rings people wear to signify that they won’t date anybody till the right person comes along.”
“People do that?” he was all the more confused.
“I guess…..I actually thought it was a thumb ring or something. I happily lapped it up and before I could realize what it was it was too late to return it.”
“Oh! So that’s how you became ‘special friends’. Now I get it. Man! How do you manage to get yourself into these situations?”
“What can I say? I have a gift.”
“So what is it this time? Which new arrival in the ‘weird section’ have you selected now?” he made no attempts to make his taunt any less obvious.
“Ha..ha..ha..” I blankly stared at him.
Realizing that his joke had bombed, he tried a different approach.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. So tell me about this girl.” he coaxed me.
“Well, we’ve only just restored contact.” I hesitantly began.
“Restored? You mean you knew this girl already?”
“Yeah we chatted at the college fest a couple of years ago. You wouldn’t remember. You were ‘Hanging out with me’ that day. Well I was seeing “Disaster Date – Vol. V” back then so I didn’t really try to make anything happen then. Anyway, so she just shows up online one day and we start chatting. I didn’t make a big deal of it first, but then we started to click really well and possible meeting came up.”
“Wasn’t “Vol. V” the one who….”
“Thought I had children because I told her I had a sibling and then got confused when I said that my sibling was older than me, yes.” I nodded
“I don’t get you sometimes, man. I mean, I’m the first to hear of the weirdos and the ‘Disaster Date’ Series but nothing about the one sane girl you’ve found?” he looked a bit offended.
“I know, I’m sorry man. I just didn’t want to jinx it. You know my luck! I mean we just spoke of like 5 girls right now, and that’s just in the last six months. You see where I’m coming from, right?”
Rameez Raja butted into our conversation announcing that Sachin had now, ‘crossed the 90-run mark for the fifth time this year’, stressing that he had been dismissed ‘in the 90’s on all four previous occasions.’ And then he tried to cover it up by saying that ‘he hoped Sachin would get his richly-deserved ton’, and how it would be ‘a perfect present for Diwali to his wife and kids’ who were impatiently watching in the stands.
“Damn that guy! Saala panvati!” I hissed as my friend started to laugh foolishly at something only he knew of. “What are you laughing at? Doesn’t this guy piss you off too?”
“He does, but I can’t help but noticing that your’s and Sachin’s fates seem almost intertwined.” he continued with the stupid grin still intact.
“So what are you saying?” I asked him. I knew ‘what he was saying’ but well I hadn’t noticed the co-incidence before.
“You know what I am saying dude. He keeps getting out a stroke away from the perfect century in the weirdest of circumstances. I’m telling you man there’s something there”
“Says the guy who decides his outfit for the day based on what Marjorie Orr recommends. All this fatalistic, astrological hoo-haa is one big scam. It never works.” I resented.
“Oh yeah, how do you explain that time when she wrote that I would make an unexpected monetary gain if I wore my lucky colour?”
“Simple, you dragged me to the mall and spent one-and-a-half grand on a ‘Jhataak Orange‘ shirt. And they were giving out Gift-Vouchers for 25% off on your next purchase, for every purchase above a grand, which, let me remind you, you spent buying that t-shirt for your girlfriend from the ‘End of Season Sale’. You didn’t save anything, you just spent almost 3 grand.” I ended my fool-proof explanation. But well my friend was a bigger fool than I gave him credit for.
“True, but did Marjorie Orr know that there was the ‘Gift-Voucher’ offer and the ‘End of Season Sale’ that week at the mall? Besides, what do you have against my orange shirt and discount clothing?”
“Just some past experiences, long story, I’ll tell you some other time.” I said as the sound of ‘ting-tong’ echoed in my room.
“Someone’s at the door dude.”
“No, that’s not the door-bell……oh shit…I totally forgot about her thanks to you…..she must be wondering why I’m not replying to her messages.”
“You can’t go now. Sachin’s on 97, you’ll jinx it! Stay here! The fate of our team depends on you”
“Oh shut up dude! All those guys are filthy rich, they can get dates when they want to.” I paid no heed to what he said and went back to my room.
I quickly apologized for my inconspicuous absence blaming my phone line. I saw that she had typed something about being bored endlessly and asked me what I was doing to kill time. It looked like the perfect opportunity to meet her.
Hesitantly, I typed ‘Umm, so do you wanna meet up? :-p’ I thought the smiley sticking out his tongue could be my excuse to say ‘Just kidding’ if this blew up in my face.
Pat came the reply,“Sure why not, I’m totally free. You know any place?”
“Dude Sachin almost got out thrice. Get back here, he’s on 98!” my friend yelled from the other room.
“Not now dude!” I said grinding my teeth.
She hadn’t even hesitated a second to say yes to meeting up. I could probably ask her out and go on a date straight away. I began typing…. “Accha listen….”
“Yes?” she replied.
The tension was palpable. Outside my buddy was freaking out, Sachin had swung and missed time and again, and every time he did, my friend hurled the choicest abuses at me. He turned up the volume so I could ‘see what I was doing to poor Sachin.‘
I was now torn between love and love for the game and my friend was doing all that he could to sway me to the latter.
“Ya….you were saying….?” she typed.
“Hey, can I talk to you in 5? Sachin’s about to score his hundred. I’ll be right back once he’s done.” I typed cursing myself as I read what I had just posted.
She probably didn’t know what to say to that so she just replied ‘Fine, I’ll BRB as well.’
I was fuming now. I marched into the hall. “Do you have any idea what could have just happened if you hadn’t interrupted me?” I growled.
“YES! Sachin could have been run-out but thank God, Shoaib is so thakela these days. If his throw was half as strong as it once was, Sachin would have been gone. But he didn’t get out, you see? He’s on 99 now and there’s just one ball to go in this over. Now that you are here next over he’ll get his hundred, pacca!” he placated me.
“What’s it to me if Sachin scores or not? I think I’ve already lost a great chance for a date.”
“No dude, don’t you see? You two are like soul-twins today. Whatever happens to him happens to you. Tell you what, I’ll guarantee that today Sachin will score his 100 and shut that bumbling idiot Rameez Raja up for good, and you will get that date too, and then we’ll go out on a double date and celebrate.”
I was in too deep now to be rational and before I knew it, I planted myself on the couch and started clapping for our boys and hooting Sohail Tanvir as he was hit for four on the last ball.
One commercial break later, the moment had arrived.
Sachin stood his ground firmly, got the sight-screen adjusted, did a couple of sit-ups and made sure his pads and family jewels were in right places, as Umar Gul lined up to bowl to him. The crowd broke out into chants of “Sachin, Sachin” and we did the same, even as Rameez threw the oft-quoted stat in our faces yet again.
We could feel that it was about to happen. Gul bowled a wide-ish delivery and Sachin’s eyes lit up at the sight of it. The ball had ‘Four’ written all over it the moment it was released from the bowler’s hand, we thought. Any second now, Sachin would smack it to the covers for four. A ton for him and a date for me. Yes, it was happening. Go soul twin go!
He swung…..and the ball hit the bat……but wait…..it was supposed to go to the cover boundary not behind the stumps!
And then, my mind went into super-slow motion mode like it does when inevitable disaster is about to take place. I froze like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle.
The ball took the edge…….. and floated…… towards the slip area. Wait…..no slips…… it was wide enough to run away for four to third man……. Four Four!! Come on….. The keeper Akmal leaped full length to his right like a goalie………but was a few inches short…….. It was going to be spectacular…….. the ball would brush against his glove………. and run away for four…… maybe breaking a finger or two on its way…….Wide….edge……broken finger….third man…..four…..century……soul-twin…..double date…….YES YES YES!
Just as I was about to leap up for joy, Akmal stretched one inch too many and he caught it!
NOOOOOOO!! This wasn’t happening. This was just one of the 4 previous dismissals replayed. Rameez Raja must have pulled this one on us, evil evil man! But the replay was the same each time, and from each angle and Rameez’s joy seemed too real for the scenes on the screen to be old replays. They were real. Sachin had been dismissed on 99…. yet again.
“What the #$%@!!!” my friend yelled over and over before sinking into a shocked silence.
I quickly shut the TV off fearing he might snap if he had to see Sachin walk back to the pavilion without a hundred against his name again.
“The test monkeys sometimes got pretty violent when repeated efforts were not positively reinforced”, my bespectacled Psychology professor had said the same day in class.
His sadness was nothing compared to mine, I had gambled with fate…..and lost. No good could happen now.
“Are you happy now? I told you to watch the match with me till Sachin got a 100 but nooo! Now look what you’ve done. Go ask your stupid girl out now, I hope you have a great life with her” he said as left in a huff and slammed the door.
Silly as he sounded then, I bought every word he said. I was responsible for Sachin’s dismissal, not Umar Gul, not Kamran Akmal, not even Rameez Raja with his evil eye or black tongue. None but me! I must be punished for this. I had let India down.
“‘You must pay, evil one!” the voice inside my head said.
I was too ridden with guilt to fight to prove my innocence. “Yes, I will pay, I will atone, I will not ask the girl out, not today, not ever!”.
“Not today, not ever!” I repeated over and over.
I sat there, my head hung with shame.
Meanwhile in the other room the chat screen on the computer flashed with one message after the other, “Hey I’m back, had to drink some water……. So did Sachin get his 100?…. When do you wanna meet up?…. Hello?….hello? And finally “<User has logged out>“
When I came back to the room and read the lines on the screen I realized fate and I were now even. I shut the computer down and walked away. I did not speak to anyone for the remainder of that day. Silence the day after that, and the day after that as well.
Mom began to get concerned and when she couldn’t take it anymore she finally confronted me.
“I understand if you were dejected that Sachin missed his 100 that day and that India lost the match. But that was 2 days ago. You can’t be depressed over it for so long! I know you. It’s probably some girl, isn’t it?”
“Why does it always have to be a girl. If I smile too much, it’s a girl. If I’m up too late it’s a girl. If I skip dinner for a change, it’s a girl. It’s not a girl, ma. There is no girl!” I said out frustration.
“Is that why you are depressed, because there is no girl? Get one, I don’t mind, I’ll have someone to blame everything on.” she gave up and walked away.
I thought of what mom told me. I couldn’t be depressed about this for so long. I had to snap out of it…and so did my friend. I decided to call him.
He answered the phone sounding every bit as depressed as I was.
“Look man, I’m sorry for what happened the other day. I shouldn’t have behaved that way. I gave you the cold shoulder and that was totally uncalled for.”
“Yeah yeah. I get it, enough with the mush now. Stop talking like my girlfriend. I know I acted like an idiot too.”
“Well yeah you certainly did. Actually more like the monkeys from the psychology experiment”
“Don’t push it now.”
“Okay okay, chill out. I don’t want this monkey on my back again.” I knew I was pushing it but I also knew that we had reached a truce.
“You know what? I’ll bury the hatchet but under one condition. We have to watch the next India-Pakistan match together, it’s the finals.”
“Fine, I agree but I have a condition too. We’ll hang out late if India wins.”
“You mean WHEN India wins. And I accept……but if we are going to stay out late, I’m getting my girlfriend along.” he was bargaining with me like we did with the hawkers at the flea market. “And I’ll ask her to get a friend along as well, just so you don’t get lonely.”
“Wait do you mean ‘Likes-my-Poems Girl’?”
“Yes and she’s also ‘Here-for-a-Week-Before-She-Goes-Back Girl’. So don’t you wait for Sachin’s green signal this time!”
“Not today, not tomorrow, not ever!”
On the evening of the finals, the stage was set. Pakistan set a target of 256 runs for India and our boys started brilliantly in their reply. Before we knew it a little somebody had reached 89. My friend and I looked at each other and thought, ‘Poetic justice finally.’ Sachin would get his ton that I stole from him the last time, India would win the series and we would have a great double date. As Sachin reached 97, Rameez Raja aired an excerpt from an interview he had conducted with Sachin on the eve of the final. Sachin said that his little one had told him not to worry and that when he reached 94 he should just hit a six and get his ton. There weren’t any sixes at 94 but a four at 97 would do just as well. The moment was perfect. Umar Gul charged in and tossed another wide one at Sachin who tried to square cut it for four. This time it didn’t take the outside edge, it took the inside edge…..and the ball crashed into the stumps. Sachin was out clean bowled for 97.
Rameez Raja said, “He should have listened to the little one and gone for six on 94.”
“Damn you Rameez Raja!“, we said. I switched the TV off and we left for our night on the town.
I won’t tell you what happened with me and “Likes-My-Poems Girl.” but here’s a hint, India beat Pakistan that day and won the series, their first against Pakistan in years. Who’s laughing now Rameez?