This is story number 5 of the 7even series.
“Dinkar… look at that boy Sachin. He is only a couple of years older to you. But he has already made a début in the Indian national cricket team. You too are a good batsman Dina… I think you should work towards it.”
“I am Baba… even I’m a good batsman. I need not prove it time again.”
“I know Dina… I just want you to work hard towards it. Yesterday I met your coach Achrekar. He said you are always late to practice in the morning? Some times you skip it too. What is this?”
“Ah … he calls us at 5am. I cant wake up that early. Besides, dont worry… I’m still the number one batsman at my club.”
“Dina you are such a… forget it. One day you will repent for this behaviour.”
Dina remembered this small conversation while walking back towards his apartment in Dombivali, a far distant suburb in Mumbai. The conversation was 20 years old. Now 33, he still remembered how his father Ramakant Kulkarni used to motivate him to become a super star batsman, probably another Sachin Tendulkar. But he didn’t. And now he wondered if it was the unfavourable conditions or himself responsible for it. Whatever the reason, he was not a cricketer today.
A year later, Mumbai Ranji team’s selection trials were scheduled at various clubs. Dina’s club did well to reach the semi finals of the selection tournament, but lost on the penultimate hurdle. Dina remained the top scorer for his team. But he was third overall in the standings. Although it was not told as a reason when they rejected Dina for the team. “Your lad is a poor fielder” selectors had told the coach. “We think he needs to improve his fitness. I hope he learns to move a bit.” Although Dina continued to play for many more years, he never made it to the team. And he never made it to the early morning practice sessions as well. The cricketers dream was all but lost.
As Dina passed a line of vehicles parked on the road, he remembered he had still not given his bike for servicing. He kept putting it off for a long time. After it broke down in the market last week, his wife had given him an ultimatum to either sell it or get it fixed. He obviously could not buy a new bike as he had to use the spare money for his daughter’s admissions. So he now had no option to get it fixed. Still he conveniently forgot.
Next few years of a young, restless Dina went mostly trying to get into the Ranji team, without realising what exactly he was expected to do. By the time he realised that his dream of making it big in cricket was not materialising, it was too late for him to try elsewhere. His studies had obviously taken a beating. While most of his batch mates advanced to better courses and colleges, he some how managed to scamper home. He still remembered the incident when a friend from his cricket club had come to meet him at his home.
“Dina… arre I’m telling you, this is a very good opportunity.”
“What? You expect me to work as a junior clerk in some bank? Please Ravi… I’m a batsman, not some junior employee. I’m going to…”
“For gods sake Ravi, I’m a s ports person. I’m a cricketer.”
“Oh yes Mr. Vengsarkar, I know that. Now here is the advantage, they have a special quota for sports persons. We have played state level in club cricket. We will get through easily. Salary is decent. Plus we have a chance for promotion if we keep appearing for exams. Forget cricket Dina, we don’t have a chance. This is life, let us…”
“Oh you filthy off spinner, you don’t have a chance. I do… and I’m going to make it big. Don’t disturb me now.”
“Alright if you think so. I thought you were my friend. So it was my duty to tell you about it. The last date for submitting forms is tomorrow. But any way, I don’t think you care. Just remember one thing from this filthy off spinner. This is a long innings we have to play. Select your shots carefully. You never know when life will run you out one day.”
Dina did not go and submit the form, a decision he was to rue all his life. Ravi was assistant manager in the bank today, 12 years after he joined them. He was briefly posted at various locations before coming back to Mumbai on promotion. He drove to his office at Fort and lived in a Bank provided apartment in Worli. While Dina, after struggling for few more years to get in the team, finally gave up. It took him 5 years to complete the 3 year commerce degree course. It was only after repeated reminders and threatening rants from his father, he finally decided to chuck his listlessness and concentrate on his life.
As the days progressed, Dina’s job search hardened. He had to take up odd jobs in the courier companies, restaurants and small factories. Finally, his cricketing roots came to his rescue. While delivering an important packet at Sion an old coach from another club spotted him.
“Arre… you are Dinakar Kulkarni na? Do you know me?”
“Yes sir…” said Dina while touching the feet of the old man. “I know you Mr. Sahay. We have met at the trials on Parsi Gymkhana.”
“Ah correct… good batsman you were, but a little sluggish. What are you doing here?”
“Oh me? Nothing much. I work with first flight… as a delivery boy actually.”
“Oh such a shame that it… why did you leave cricket?”
“Well, cricket left me. I could not make it big. Studies also suffered. I had to do some thing for living.”
“Oh! Sad to hear that. But listen, you don’t have to deliver these packets my boy. Tell me, are you a graduate?”
“Okay… there is this friend of mine who is a director in some cooperative bank in Kalyan. He was hiring some junior employees. Although it is hardly a job you can…”
“I’ll do it!” Dina interrupted him rather loudly.
“I mean I’m okay with it. Tell me the address. Can I go and meet him?”
Since then, he had been working in the Kalyan branch of Abhudaya cooperative bank’s Kalyan branch. Though he struggled initially to cope with a Bank life, it was at least better than the one at the courier company. He never cursed his luck and accepted what life gave him, until today. His daughter had to be admitted to a school. Although it was still a year to go, his wife had been behind him to enquire about schools around their area. After persistent follow up, he finally stepped into a good school.
“Mr Joshi… I think you are late. Admissions are closed.”
“Late? But it is only early October. I’m talking about admissions in the next year.”
“Mr. Joshi… this is Don Bosco. People queue up here to take admissions. This year’s free admissions are already closed.”
“What do you mean free?”
“Well… there are few admissions available. But they are paid ones, through donations.”
“I’m sure you don’t want to know.”
The humiliation at school was too much to handle for Dina. He returned dejected, being unable to get admissions on time or being unable to pay 2 lacs as donation. He wondered what it was that caused the misery to him. Probably his bad luck, he thought as he entered in his building. His thoughts were interrupted by an elderly woman at the gate.
“Dina… arre have you fixed your leaking pipe in the balcony?”
“Oh… sorry I forgot. Will do it today.”
“What today man! It has been a week since it burst. The water is spraying all over our house.”
‘Yes yes… I will do it today.”
“What today… your father is right about you. Such a lethargic chap you are. Very lazy…”
That conversation summed up the entire day and his last 20 years. Had he put the extra effort to train more, had he concentrated on studies, had he appeared for the bank exam, had he… examples of Dina’s lethargy were many. And life punished him for each of the sin.