Empty thoughts and mutterings

Friday, May 26, 2006

Adolescence

Sriram was the champion cricketer of his street team. He was always picked #1, when it was time to pick teams. And whichever team he played in, he was automatically the captain, no matter who picked teams. Though he enjoyed all the attention showered on him, sriram didn't to play with these street kids of his age. No offence to these 10 th std kids, but he had proved everything he had to prove, with these little boys. He wanted to play with his older brother's friends, the big college boys, who played once a week in the same street. Now it was summer time, and the college guys played every day, and he wanted to prove his mettle here. A few years back, they wouldn't let him play with them, because he was too little. But he had slowly progressed since then, both with his cricketing skills and with his height.

Padmini was about his same age and lived in the corner apartment of the street. A few years back, Sriram would get into fights with her for everything, and he wouldn’t miss a chance to beat her up. But they had grown up since then, and they had become friends. She would come down from her apartment and watch the boys play cricket, while she read her fiction novels. In the last few weeks, another cute girl had joined her, and the both of them would watch the proceedings from Padmini’s house. To sriram’s liking, that new good looking girl, seemed to take an active interest in their cricket game. Now, he had a reason to play well again, to hit those huge towering sixes, to field with vigor, and to take those catches in the last second, making them look more spectacular than they were meant to be.

And in the next few weeks, he had learnt that the new girl’s name was Harini and she was about the same age as he was. She had moved 3 streets away from theirs and was an old class mate of Padmini’s. Padmini had introduced him to her, but he was too shy to say more than a “hi” and had left the scene soon after. She had not missed a single day’s game in all these days, and Sriram was starting to get the impression that she was there to see him play. To see him play or to see him period, he didn’t know. After every one of his game changing plays, he had watched through the corner of his eye, and she had noticed, with a twinkle in her eye it seemed, almost proud ! Sriram could not wait for the evenings to turn up, so he could see Harini, he could impress her… again ! And without fail, every evening, well dressed, rain or no rain, sunday or week day, Harini turned up to watch the action. Sriram was convinced by now, that she was there for him. But he didn’t understand why a stranger would take a sudden interest to him, like that. He didn’t understand it completely, but he liked it, and he didn’t want it to stop.

His brother was the host to all his friends during their little evening cricket games and their place was his friends’ hang out spot. His brother was only average as far as cricketing skills were concerned, but got picked ahead of him, when the team was picked, because it was considered an embarrassment for a kid brother to be picked ahead of the older one. But when it came time for an important game, or a bet game, those theories were thrown out the door and Sriram was picked ahead of his brother. Sriram didn’t care when he was picked, as long as he could do something every day to impress Harini.

One day, after the cricket was done, Padmini had waved at him and asked him to come over to where she was sitting with Harini. His heart started to beat a little faster.

“What does she want now ?” “Why is she calling me when Harini’s there” ? “What am I going to say now” “After all the cool sixes, and catches, what if Harini hates me when I open my mouth ?” “Oh my god, why are you doing this to me?”

He walked over to where they were seated. Padmini started asking him questions about his school, the group he was going to take, his results and all kinds of irrelevant questions. Irrelevant, because he knew Padmini well enough to tell that these questions were not the real point of the conversation. There was more, but he didn’t know what. Harini was watching them talk with the same active interest that she took in his daily cricket matches. And just when he was starting to get a little impatient, Padmini changed topics.

“This is not why I called you here, Sriram. Harini wants to say something to you, I’ll leave you guys here, you can talk” said Padmini and left abruptly.

Harini moved closer to him and looked pretty nervous. That made Sriram a little more comfortable, because he wasn’t the only one that was nervous there.

“I don’t know how to start sriram” she said

“That’s okay, say what you want to, feel free”

“I hope you won’t think bad things about me when I say this”

“I won’t. Go on”

“You must have noticed, I have been coming here for the past 2 months or so right” ?

“Yes, I have”

“Do you know why ?”

“I have no clue” he lied.

“There is a reason, but I don’t know how I can say it to you”

“Hmmm” he said, not knowing what to feel or what to say.

“I don’t know if you’ll understand, it’s about feelings”

“Go, on” urged Sriram. He knew what was coming, but couldn’t bear the suspense.

“Sriram, I can’t do this, I can’t say it, Padmini wanted me to call you and talk to you, but it’s hard, I can’t”

“It’s okay, you can say it, there’s no problem” said sriram, sensing an anticlimactic finish to what had been an exciting start.

“No, sriram, I can’t, maybe tomorrow, okay ? sorry, bye” and before he could respond, walked over to Padmini’s 2 nd floor apartment, leaving behind a completely confused young man.

Sriram could not hide his excitement that night. He had heard his friends talk about “relationships” and 2 of his friends were “going steady” with girls he didn’t know. He wanted to try it too. He wanted to “go steady” with a girl of his own. But he didn’t know how to start, or what he should do. Maybe this is how it all starts. Maybe it comes and falls on your lap and you just take it. He thought about what he should say to her when she talked to him the next day. Should he say yes right away? Would it look bad if he did ? Should he hold her hand after he said yes? Would it look bad if he did ? Or would it look bad if he didn’t ? He bombarded himself with all these questions all night long. In spite of a bunch of unanswered questions, he couldn’t wait for the next evening.

The next evening showed up albeit late. And there Harini was, with Padmini, on time for the start of the first game. Sriram could not have cared lesser about the game. He was excited about what was going to happen after. After the game, as he had predicted, but to his relief, Padmini waved at Sriram again asking him to come over. By the time he got there, Padmini had left the area. Harini came up to him, with the same nervous look of the previous day.

“I think I am going to say it. Padmini wants me to..” she started off

“I think you should.”

“But I am not good at saying these things”

“That’s okay, nobody is, go on..”

“I think uhh I think……I have a crush…..on your brother…”

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