Saturday, November 29, 2014

'She's a Black' : a short story

For a change from Prem Chand here is a short story written by me.


I got down from the bus and took the road to Dr. Pal’s residence. It was past five-thirty and dusk had already fallen. The December chill seeped in through my woolens and sent shivers all over my body. It was well that Pal had invited me for a drink. He had returned from a trip abroad only last week and wanted me to partake of a bottle of scotch he had brought home.  

The way to Dr. Pal’s home lay through the crowded market of East Patel Nagar, which was lively in spite of the chill. There I met Mr. Kumar, an acquaintance of mine, who taught in the same college as Pal.
‘Hello, where to?’ he asked me.

‘To Dr. Pal’s,’ I said.

Mr. Kumar’s mouth opened with a grin showing his long yellow ungainly teeth.

‘He’s just back from Europe. A clever guy, always angling for foreign trips! Knows how to milk the right cow… Achha bhai, come sometime to this poor man’s lodge too.’ He took my hand, shook it and went his way.

I walked on. Soon I found myself at Dr. Pal’s door and rang. Dr. Pal himself opened. We both went in.

‘I hope I’m not late.’

‘Oh, no. There’s no party. I had asked only Dr. Sharma, but he’s not coming, had to go somewhere suddenly.’

‘I met Kumar in the market.’

‘Oh!’ Dr. Pal’s face lit up with a benign smile. ‘What did he say?’

‘Nothing. Doesn’t seem to like you very much.’

‘It takes all kinds of people to make the world.’

Dr. Pal talked as he brought the glasses, soda and snacks. And then, finally, he took out the bottle and placed it on the table.

‘Here it is.’ He said with great relish.

‘I bought this on the flight back home.’

‘The bottle’s so elegant,’ I said.

‘What’s inside is much more so.’ Dr. Pal opened the bottle fondly and poured into glasses, making two drinks.

We began to drink and talk.

To begin with, the conversation was desultory, meandering over university affairs, hazards of living in Delhi, children’s education, but finally it stabilized around Dr. Pal’s recent visit.

‘It was a good trip. A two-week stay in America, arranged by an organisation called Mission for International Religion as an experiment in international living. We were thirty couples belonging to different continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, America – different religions, races – black, white, yellow, brown, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians. The purpose was to emphasize the unity of all religions and the universal nature of human aspirations. There were talks, seminars, discussions, with a view to understand different religions, cultures, racial attitudes and behaviour, and each one of us was finally asked to write a report on his or her experience during the two week period. That’s what I’m doing these days, writing my report.’

I began to envy Dr. Pal.

‘What do they do with the reports?’ I asked.

‘It’s a continuing process. Reports provide for better functioning in the future. Such experiments in international living are planned every year. Each year in a different country. The aim is to finally set up centres of the Mission in all parts of the world.’ Dr. Pal was willing to explain things.

‘What’s the ultimate aim of the Mission?’

‘That’s not very clear to me. But perhaps to organize the international community on a non-political, non-ideological basis. The assumption being that religions of the world offer a universally acceptable common denominator for a world order free from all the ills of the systems, past and present.’

Visions of a new Messiah, a new Jesus, a new Buddha storming the planet with a new kind of spiritual nuclear power arose in my mind.

‘Who runs the organization?’

‘A multi-millionaire American, non-white, of Asian origin,’ said Dr. Pal, picking up his glass and emptying it.

‘Finish yours, quick,’ he said to me.

I lifted up my glass, and drained it off. Dr. Pal poured another drink. Mrs. Pal came with some snacks. I greeted her and asked her about her trip abroad.

‘It was very fine. It was wonderful to meet people from all parts of the world. The arrangements were excellent. Better than in five star hotels here. We enjoyed our stay thoroughly.’ She said.

‘Did you go to other countries, too?’

‘No. But we stayed for a day each in London and Paris on our way home. A good free trip, bought a few things. What else?’ she chirped, and went away.

‘This was her first trip abroad,’ Dr. Pal said.

‘What about your children?’

‘They didn’t go. It was for married couples only. But my son went with the Mission’s Round the World Tour for the Youth in October. Six countries in America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Arabia. There was an offer for my daughter too. But we didn’t send her. Lower middle class apprehensions, I suppose,’ he said with a wry smile. ‘But she can still go. I think it is easier to give up one’s religious and racial prejudices than one’s class ideas on sex or morality.’

‘I don’t know.’ I said uncertainly.

‘May be, it is difficult for us, not for young people. I’ve often talked over to my son. He’s free from all such prejudices. He found it easy to mix with all.’

‘Certainly, there’s a lot of difference. Our children are growing up in a liberal atmosphere. But something very strange is also happening in our country. Along with liberalization we also see the hardening of attitudes, caste wars, regionalism, linguistic, chauvinism, religious fundamentalism. We seem to be becoming an intolerant and a violent society,’ I said.

‘These are all in their passing phase, the last spurt before final extinction. The world is moving towards internationalism very fast. Twenty years ago, why even ten years, I couldn’t dream of going abroad. And today my whole family has been abroad. In fact, my children already think of settling abroad. I tell you, national boundaries are becoming irrelevant. People are traveling so much.’ Dr. Pal was very emphatic in his assertions.

‘That’s true. But it’s the affluent or the more fortunate ones. The vast majority still can’t dream of all that, and nationalism will yet take a long time to die. The gap between the rich and the poor nations is, if anything, widening. So long as that gap remains, true internationalism cannot emerge.’ I said, and drank my glass up.

Dr. Pal immediately emptied his own  and poured yet another drink.

‘It is precisely here that agencies like the Mission for International Religion become relevant. If politics and economics keep people divided, perhaps religion can unite them.’ Pal said, as he opened another soda and poured it into our glasses.

‘Do you really believe it’s so simple to unite peoples of the world? The UN has been there for more than forty years now – the biggest experiment in internationalism. People from all corners of the world – small, big, super, white, black, brown, yellow, hot, cold, equatorial, tropical – meet there, talk, debate, eat, drink, exchange gifts, make love, and what do they achieve –  a better world?’

‘That’s exactly what I’m saying. Where politics divides, religion can unite. I mean true religion, not organized in the way religions have been in the past.’

So far as I know Dr. Pal had as little faith in religion as a uniting force as I. So I was surprised at what he said.

‘You’ve changed your views about religion.’

‘Yes and no. I never had and still don’t have faith in organized religion with all its paraphernalia of rites and rituals, but I’ve always deep in my heart, believed in, what I call, for want of better words, the religious truth of the highest order. Only a deeply religious attitude can give us a glimpse into the unknown, the ultimate where all differences submerge and everything unites.’ He said this with great conviction.

‘One need not be a religious man to believe in the reality of a super-consciousness. Even a sceptic can do so. Some modern physicists also believe in it.’ I said, taking a long sip.

‘But that’s the exceptional man. What you need is something for the ordinary man. You need some kind of organization that transcends the national, racial barriers, to which all mankind can belong, and which can give one a sense of identity that is in tune with the universal aspirations of man. I don’t know, I may be wrong, I may be rationalizing, I may not be able to convince you, yet I must say that this organization has given me such a hope, and that’s why I’ve pushed my family whole heartedly into this. The wounds inflicted by the partition would take another generation to heal, but I cannot forget, even though I was a child then, what that Muslim family did to save us. Almost everyone was intent on killing, yet this family of orthodox Muslims gave us shelter. Now I realize, there must have been something in their religion which made them risk their lives to save us.’

‘But why must you find that something only in a man of religion. A sceptic can be equally humane and courageous. One doesn’t have to believe in God or even a super-consciousness.’ I said.

‘You may be right, but that doesn’t prove me wrong either. The two extremes, perhaps, meet somewhere, and from a practical point it seems to work. I won’t talk of my own experience. I’ll tell you something about the youth group of which my son was a member – the change in my son. You very well know the prejudices of our own class, our own pettiness, narrow outlook, communal, regional, casteist– all these ills thrive the most in our class. Just a three week trip round the world in the company of young men and women from all over the world has brought a tremendous change in my son. A three-year course in internationalism wouldn’t do what has been done in three weeks.’ Dr. Pal said this with an air of finality.

‘I don’t doubt that. My question is: Why do you think religion, even in the sense you understand, is necessary to bring out the universal in man? These young people you talk about could have been transformed without any talk of religion. Youth is a great cementing force, and when young people are together they think alike.’

‘You don’t get my point.’ Dr. Pal had got hold of his idea and was putting it across very earnestly. ‘These young people came from different countries, different walks of life, belonged to different races, religions and had their own prejudices, hates and loves. They certainly needed a common rallying point, a kind of mission to work around, and I feel only religion can provide such a pivot. Political ideologies have miserably failed, and so has science. It is precisely because science, which has been presented as a saviour of mankind, both material and intellectual, has failed to evolve a positive value system, that we see a return to religion.’ Dr. Pal had made his point and joined the prophets who were predicting the failure of science and the ruin of mankind.

‘I don’t agree with you,’ I said. ‘First, let me make it clear, I’m not quite sure that science is failing mankind. But if science seems to be failing it is for the same reasons for which religion and political ideologies failed. The root cause of the trouble is the very nature of man. We have to face the bleak fact that human nature would not change easily, that there is sufficient evil and intolerance in the world, that we can destroy the planet with prejudices produced by race and religion, and power given by science. But, of course, one cannot give up the efforts to avert such a disaster. To do that we cannot go back and fall upon religion, but have to go ahead and look for something else. I don’t know about your motives, but I find the motives of these self-styled saviours of mankind very suspect. They are partly responsible for the revival of religious fundamentalism. Any religious revival is bound to be reactionary and backward looking.’

Having said all this, I felt I had gone too far. If you are specially invited to drink someone’s whisky, specially brought for you, then it is bad manners to talk like I was talking; so I stopped and repented.
I don’t know how Dr. Pal took my words. But finding my glass empty, he filled it up and resumed the argument.

‘I find nothing reactionary in all this,’ he began. ‘I found everyone willing to, and going out of his or her way to accept others, to give up their narrow way of looking at things. But as I told you I’m not sure what the big man is up to. I haven’t seen him and if I find anything questionable I would give up.’

‘That is not easy. Such organizations don’t spend money on you for nothing.’ I warned him.

‘I’ve taken care of that. And if the worst comes, I won’t be a loser. After all I’ve seen half the world free. My son has gone round the world, seen so much. It has given him a tremendous confidence and a broader view of life. He may not become a missionary in a great cause, but he would certainly become a better human being. I would even take a cynical view of this. After the trip I’ve no worries about my son for he can look after himself. That’s a positive achievement.’ Saying this he took a quick sip from his glass and got up. I’ll show you the photographs he took on his trip.’

He went to the other room and came back with a very attractive looking album. He sat beside me on the sofa.

I began to look through the album. He guided me. The United States, Europe, Asia, Arabia, China. Groups of young men and women, white, black, brown, yellow – poised against the background of great cities and great spiritual monuments of mankind, churches, mosques, pagodas, temples – happy, carefree, lively, hand in hand, embracing, hugging, all on top of the world, raising a vision of an earthly paradise. There was really something amazing, something wonderful about them, and Dr. Pal’s dry arguments put on flesh and blood in these photographs. My tedious and academic objections began to look ridiculous. Dr. Pal’s son seemed to have enjoyed every moment in this trip. Dr. Pal particularly pointed out photographs in which his son stood hand in hand with a black girl. The girl was tall and slim, with delicate features; her dark copper complexion and shapely frame made her something of a beauty.

‘They were declared the best couple.’ Dr. Pal said. ‘The girl is Nigerian.’

I saw some more photographs featuring the two. I tried to scrutinize their faces to find evidence of something more than mere companionship, but I got no clue. The members of the troupe seemed so happy and irrevocably wedded to one another. I envied the young people; my own youth had been so dull. I envied Dr. Pal, the father, who had been able to do so much for his son. I also wanted to do something similar for my son, and I was sure that Dr. Pal would be able to help me.

I saw through the album and handed it back to him almost reverentially. It had quite affected me. Dr. Pal also saw that it had, and sat triumphant, vindicated.

‘What about your photographs?’ I asked.

‘I’ve given them for printing. Should get them in a day or two.’

We resumed drinking.

‘Minu has an offer to study comparative religion in America.’ He said quietly.

‘Is he going?’

‘Most probably. He’ll go after his M.A. next year.’

‘Is he interested in religion?’

‘I’m not sure. Before this trip he wasn’t. But the trip has given him an orientation, if not a cause. And then it is such an opportunity.’

‘No doubt.’ I agreed.

We emptied our glasses and Dr. Pal moved to make another drink. I declined firmly.

‘No,’ I said. ‘This is my limit, and thank you very much. Keep the rest for a better day.’ I got up and we moved out.

‘All days are good.’ He winked.

‘When are you going next?’ I asked him hoping that he would make some kind of offer to me.
‘Not yet, after a few months, perhaps.’

‘At least you’ve found something worthwhile to do. It’s a big thing to retain faith in something, in this century, the graveyard of all certainties.’ I said honestly.

As we were moving out of the gate, Pal’s son, Minu came in. He greeted me. I shook hands with him, looked intently at his face. The trip had changed his appearance, so I thought. I was meeting him after a year. He looked taller, smarter, more handsome, and modern like the young men in TV and magazine ads.

‘So you had a very fine trip.’ I said smiling.

‘Yes, uncle.’

‘When are you going again?’

‘I’m not sure. May be, next year. I haven’t made up my mind. They have given me comparative religion. I’m trying for a change. But it’s a very good chance.’ He moved towards the entrance.

‘And you have already found the star of your destiny?’ I spoke to his back.

He stopped, turned and said, ‘I don’t understand.’

‘That Nigerian girl?’ I said with a smile.

‘Oh, no, uncle. She’s a black.’ He said this spontaneously, waited for a moment for me to say something, then went inside.

 Mine and Dr. Pal’s eyes met for a fraction of a second. I bade him good-bye.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Prem Chand's short stroy 'Gulli-Danda'

Read my translation of Prem Chand's short story 'Gulli-Danda'. 






Our English-knowing friends may or may not agree, but I must say that gulli-danda is the king of sports. Even today whenever I see boys playing gulli-danda I start rolling in delight and feel like joining them. No need of a lawn, or a shinguard, or a net, or a bat. Just cut a small branch from a tree and chip a small piece off it to make a gulli, and you begin to play even with just two people. The problem with Vilayati games is that their kits are very expensive. Unless you spend at least a hundred rupees you can’t be counted as a player. And here is gulli-danda for which you spend nothing, yet can have all the fun. But we are so enamoured of English things that we have lost all interest in our own. In the schools they charge three to four rupees each year as games fees. But no one thinks of introducing Indian games that can be played without spending anything. The English games are meant for those who have money. Why force these on the poor? True, that a shot of gulli-danda can smash your eye. In the same way a cricket ball can break your head, or damage your ligament, or break your leg. If I still carry a scar on my forehead from gulli-danda, many of my friends have exchanged their bats for crutches. Well, it all depends on your interest.  For me it is gulli-danda, and some of my sweetest memories are associated with this game: To come out early in the morning, to climb a tree to cut a few branches and chisel out the gullis and dandas, that excitement and involvement, that drove of players, that batting and fielding, those fights, that innocence in which differences between the touchable and untouchable, between the rich and the poor disappeared, where there was no room for pretension,  or display of one’s wealth, or pride – all this would be forgotten only... The family are angry; father is expending his anger on food; mother, who cannot think beyond the household, is of the view that my bleak future is rocking like a sinking boat. And here I am busy sending my opponents on a gulli chase, not caring to wash myself, or eat. A gulli is so small, but it is packed with the sweetness of all the sweets and pleasures of all the shows of the world.

Among my playmates was a boy named Gaya. He was elder to me by two-three years thin, tall, fingers like a monkey’s, and also its quickness and restlessness. The gulli might be of any shape, he pounced upon it like a lizard at an insect. I didn’t know whether his parents were alive, or where he lived or what he ate but he was a champion player of our gulli-danda club. The team for which he played was sure to win. On seeing him come we would dash towards him and urge him join our team. 


One day I and Gaya were playing. He was batting and I was fielding. Isn’t it strange that we can enjoy batting the whole day but don’t like to field even for a minute. I tried all the tricks to wriggle out, all those that are excusable in such a situation, though being outside the rule book. But Gaya was not willing to let me go without completing his batting.

When my requests were of no avail I deserted the field and ran homewards. Gaya ran after and caught me; and flourishing the danda, said, ‘Go only after I have completed my batting. You were enjoying while I was fielding, and now you are running away when it is my turn to bat.’

‘If you keep batting the whole day, should I keep fielding?’

‘Yes. You’ll have to go on for the whole day.’

‘And without food and water?’

‘Yes, you can’t go until I have had my turn.’

‘Am I your slave?’

‘Yes, you are.’

‘I’m going home. Let me see how you stop me.’

‘How can you go home? It’s no joke. You have had your turn. Now I must have mine.’

‘Ok, yesterday I had given you a guava to eat. Give it back to me.’

‘That’s gone into my tummy.’

‘Take it out. Why did you eat it?’

‘I ate it because you gave it. I didn’t ask for it.’

‘I won’t field until you return my guava.’

I thought the justice was on my side. I must have given him that guava out of some selfish motive. No one does anything without self-interest. People give even alms out of selfishness. So if Gaya had eaten my guava he had no right to ask me to field. People can suck your blood after bribing you. And this fellow has eaten my guava without wanting to give anything in return. I had bought five guavas for one paisa; which even Gaya’s father won’t be able to afford. He was being unjust through and through.

Gaya dragged me towards himself and said, ‘I want my turn. I don’t care about your guava or whatever.’

I had justice on my side and he was bent upon being unjust. I wanted to run away but he won’t let me go. I swore at him and he retorted with a dirtier swear word, and even slapped me. I bit him with my teeth. He hit me with the danda. I stared crying. Gaya couldn’t stand against this weapon of mine and ran. I wiped my tears quickly and forgot the hit and went home laughing. I the son of a thanedaar was beaten up by a low caste boy! I felt humiliated but I didn’t talk about it to anyone at home.


Then my father was transferred out. I was so thrilled at the idea of seeing the new place that I felt no regret at losing my companions. Father was unhappy. Here the income was good. Mother was unhappy because everything was cheaper here, and she had become friendly with the neighbourhood women. But I was happy. I was bragging to my friends.  There the houses are different, touching the skies. There if a teacher in the English medium school beat up a boy he would be sent to jail. The wide-open eyes and wonderstruck faces of my friends were telling me how high I had gone up in their esteem. The power the children have to turn the fanciful into he real can’t be appreciated by us who can change a truth into falsehood. The poor fellows were feeling envious of me and seemed to be saying: You are lucky, bhai.  Go. We have to live and die in this wretched place.’

Twenty years passed by. I was an engineer now.  I came to the same town for inspection and stayed in the dak bungalow . My very presence in that place brought back the sweet memories of my childhood. I picked up my stick and came out to walk through the town. My eyes searched restlessly, like a thirsty traveller, for my childhood haunts, but here there was nothing familiar except the name of the town.  Where there was wasteland once I found pucca houses. Where there was a banyan tree I saw a beautiful park. The place had undergone a metamorphosis. Had I not known the name and the location I wouldn’t have recognized it. The undying memories of my childhood were opening their arms to meet my old friends, but this world had changed. I wanted to embrace the place and cry, and complain that it had forgotten me. I longed to see its old face.

All of a sudden I saw two-three boys playing gulli-danda in an open space. For a moment I forgot who I was: a big officer, with my officer-ship, power and authority in full show.

I went close to them and asked a boy, ‘Son, does a man by the name of Gaya live here?’

One of the boys answered, somewhat overawed, ‘Gaya? Gaya, the chamar?’

I said, ‘Yes, yes, the same. If there’s a man called Gaya, he might be the same.’

‘Yes, there is.’

‘Can you call him?’

The boy ran and in a short while I saw him coming back accompanied by a dark, gigantic man. I recognized him from a distance and wanted to take him in my embrace but stopped for some reason. I said, ‘Gaya, do you recognize me?’

Gaya bowed down to salute me. ‘Yes, malik. Why wouldn’t I ? How have you been?’

‘Oh fine. And you?’

‘I’m deputy sahib’s syce.’

‘Where’re Mattai, Durga and Mohan? Do you have any news about them?’

‘Mattai’s dead. Durga and Mohan have become postmen. And you?’

‘I’m the district engineer.’

Sarkar, you were always very bright.’

‘Do you play gulli-danda now, sometimes?’

Gaya looked at me with surprise, ‘How can I play, sarkar? I get no time off.’

‘Come, let’s play today. You bat. I’ll field. I owe you a turn. You can square it today.’

Gaya agreed only after great persuasion. He was a petty labourer. I a big officer. There was no match. He was feeling embarrassed. So was I. Not because I was playing against Gaya but because I felt that people would treat this as a great tamasha and assemble in a big crowd. I won’t enjoy with that crowd watching us, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to play. We decided that we would go and play far away from the habitation at a lonely place. No one would be there to watch us and we would relive the sweet memories of our childhood. I brought Gaya to the dak bungalow and both of us sat in the motor car and drove to an open spot. We carried an axe too. I was very serious about it but Gaya was still treating it as fun. There was no trace of excitement or pleasure on his face. Perhaps he was lost in thinking about the divide that now existed between us.

I asked, ‘Gaya, tell me honestly, did you ever think me?’

Gaya replied, somewhat bashfully, ‘How should I remember you, hazoor? I’m worth nothing. It was my good luck to play with you for a few days. That’s all.’

I said, saddened a bit, ‘But I always remembered you. Your danda, with which you had hit me hard. Don’t you remember it?’

‘That was out of boyishness. Don’t remind me of that, sarkar.’

‘What! That’s the best memory of my childhood. The enjoyment that I get remembering that incident, I find nowhere; neither in the respect I get, nor in the money I have. There was something in that which is still sweet.’

By this time we had driven nearly three miles away from the town. There was silence all around. Towards the west was the marshland spreading for miles across, where we sometimes used to come to pick the lotus flowers and fasten them on to our ears like earrings. The evening of the month of Jeth was drenched in a crimson light. I quickly climbed up a tree and came down after cutting a branch. And a gulli and danda were ready in no time.

The game began. I positioned the gulli on the small boat-shaped hole, the starting point, and struck it with the danda. The gulli flew right in front of Gaya. He raised his hand as if to catch a fish, but the gulli fell just behind him. It was the same Gaya in whose hands the gulli would land of her own will as if. He might be waiting to the right or to the left, the gullis would just land into his hands, as if he had spellbound them. The new gulli, the old gulli, the big gulli, the small gulli, the sharply tapered gulli, the untapered gulli – all would defect to his side, as if drawn by some magnetic power. But today the gulli showed no love for him. Then I sent him on a gulli chase. I broke all the rules, substituting cheating for my lack of practice. I kept on playing even when I had missed hitting the gulli; though according to the rules it should have been Gaya’s turn to bat. Whenever I failed to drive the gulli far I ran to pick it up it and start again. Gaya was watching all these violations but he said nothing, as if he had forgotten all the rules. His aim was so perfect that the gulli would always hit the danda with a clatter. The gulli’s only purpose after release from his hand was to hit the danda. But today it refused. It went either left or right or fell short,  or went across.

After he had fielded for half an hour the gulli hit the danda. But I cheated saying it hadn’t, had gone past missing it narrowly.


Gaya didn’t protest.

‘It might have missed.’

‘Had it hit I won’t have denied.’

‘No, bhaiya, why should you lie?’

During our childhood he wouldn’t have spared my life had I cheated like this. He would have caught me by the neck, but today I was cheating so openly. The donkey! He had forgotten everything.

Suddenly the gulli hit the danda like a bullet. Against this clear proof I couldn’t cheat, yet once again I thought of changing the truth into falsehood. What would I lose? If he agreed it would be great but if he didn’t there was no harm in fielding for a while. I’ll wriggle out appealing for bad light. Who would come again to field!

Gaya shouted in a victorious mood, ‘It has hit! It has hit! With a clatter.’

I pretended. ‘Did you see it hit? I didn’t.’

‘It made a clattering noise, sarkar.’ 

‘It might have hit a brick.’

How such a sentence came out of my mouth, surprised even me. To turn this truth into falsehood was like calling the day night.  Both of us had seen the gulli hit the danda, yet Gaya accepted my version.
‘Yes, it must have hit a brick. Had it hit the danda it wouldn’t have made such a clattering noise.’

I began to bat again. But after such blatant cheating I began to pity Gaya’s naivetty. So when the gulli hit the danda a third time I agreed to field, out of generosity.

Gaya said, ‘Now it’s dark, bhaiya, let’s play tomorrow.’

I thought for a moment: Tomorrow he would have too much time and God knows how long he’ll make me field. It was better to call it quits today itself.

‘No, no. There’s plenty of light. You take your turn.’

‘We won’t be able to see the gulli.’

‘Don’t worry.’

Gaya started batting. But he was terribly out of practice. He tried to strike the gulli twice but failed each time. His turn was over in less than a minute. I tried to be generous.

‘You can have another turn. You have missed your very first shot.’ I said.

‘No, bhaiya, it’s already dark.’

‘You’re out of practice. Don’t you play now.’

‘There’s no time, bhaiya.’

Both of us got into the car and were back in the town before darkness. As he was going away Gaya said to me, ‘Tomorrow there’ll be a match here. All the old players would come. Would you come? I’ll call them when you are free.’


I agreed and came there in the evening to watch the match.  There were ten players in all. Some of them were my boyhood companions. Majority of the players were young, whom I did not know. The match began. I was watching sitting inside my car. Today I was astonished to see Gaya’s skill. When he struck the gulli it flew into the sky. There was no trace of yesterday’s hesitation, reluctance or lack of interest. What was once boyishness had acquired a maturity. Had he made me field like this yesterday I would have cried. The gulli travelled two hundred yards when he struck it with his danda.
One of the fielders tried to cheat. He thought he had caught the gulli. Gaya said that the gulli had first hit the ground. They were about to come to blows. But the young boy backed out when he saw Gaya’s face flushed with anger. Had he not backed out there would have been a fight. I was not playing, yet I was enjoying it all, reminded of the good old days of boyhood. Now I realized that yesterday Gaya only pretended to be playing. He had taken pity on me. I had cheated but he didn’t lose his temper, because he was not playing but only kidding. He didn’t want to torture me by making me chase the gulli endlessly. I was an officer and this officer-ship had become a wall between us. Now I could get his respect or his favours but not his companionship. During our boyhood we were equals. There was no distance between us. But now in this position I was an object of his pity. He didn’t recognize me as his equal. He had grown taller and I had grown smaller.
                                                                 (Hindi, Hans, February1933)