Shreya Rajgopal: The Phone Call

It was a tranquil morning. I was curled up on the couch, reading a book. I was so engrossed in the book that the world around me was almost nonexistent.

I was midway through the book, when the phone on the table beside me rang monotonously. I was captivated in the book and decided not to pick up. It stopped ringing. After five minutes, it rang again. This time I could feel the vibrations. Vibrations of urgency and the sound kept getting louder and louder. Eventually, though it took a great deal of effort, I decided to pick up. Little did I know, that call changed my life.

“Hello?” I said in a nonchalant tone.

“My dear girl, run. Run down in five minutes. And take your mother and sister along with you, for what will happen will be a calamity,” said the voice on the phone. I could not recognise the voice, but I assumed it to be my father.

“Stop the drama, dad! And why should I run? I am in the middle of this fascinating book. Play this prank some other time.”

“If you care about your life, then you will run. I must keep the phone down. Now run. And this is not your father.” The call ended.

I was puzzled. What would happen in five minutes? And who was that man? The more I thought about it, the more frightened I got. I decided to inform my mother about the call, but I as I walked to the kitchen, It happened, The prediction.

The sofa began shaking and so did the fan on the ceiling. The alarm of the building rang and all of the residents ran down the stairs for their lives. My mother came out of the kitchen, carrying my sister and, in a frantic tone, yelled at me to open the door and run out.

Once we ran down about five flights of the stairs and were outside the building, we stopped to finally catch our breath. I realised that it was a tremor that we had experienced.

After about fifteen minutes, when people calmed down, the security guard assured us that it was safe to return back into our respective apartments. As soon as we went back home, my mom turned on the television to find out the epicenter of the earthquake we had felt. It turned out to be Nepal. “The magnitude of the earthquake is 7.5,” said the news reporter. “It has shaken up the city.”

As I thought it through, none of it made sense. How did that man know about this? How did he predict it so confidently? And why did he call me? Why not somebody else? How did he get my number? Who is he?

The phone rang again. I was scared. “Mom, let me pick up,” I said. Even though I was scared, I wanted answers,

“Hello,” I said in a frightened voice.

“Sweety, are you alright?” I recognised the voice. It was my father.

“Yes dad, I am fine … are you alright?”

“Yes, don’t worry about me. Can you give the phone to your mother?”

“Sure.” I handed the phone to my mother.

Hours passed, days passed, week passed, months passed but I never received another call from the mysterious caller. Slowly, slowly my prospects of receiving it seemed to reduce. A part of me actually wanted the man to call. But every single day that passed, my expectations reduced.

Suddenly, in the midst of the breezy autumn where the sky was filled with shades of scarlet and garnet, the phone rang. I had forgotten about everything that occurred months back. And so, again, I answered casually.

“Hello!”

“I understand that you are taking care of your friend’s cat while she is away. Am I not right?”

The tone, the sound! I held my breath and answered. “Yes. Who is this? How do you know all of this?”

“My dear, the sky is covered with coal-charred clouds and the wind is heavy. But not as heavy as the guilt you will feel within a few seconds. The food you fed the cat, it is poisonous. If I were you, I would not waste a single second. Run.” And the call ended as suddenly as before.

I ran. I ran only to find that Mishay, the cat, had licked his bowl and left it sparking clean. I broke down. I searched for the packet of the cat food only to see that the expiry date had passed a week back and I had not even noticed.

Mishay began to puke. I tried everything I could but none of it helped. I called my mum.

Luckily, her friend is a vet. We took Mishay there and thanks to the vet, Mr Malik, she survived. She had to spend a few days in hospital but by the time my friend returned, she was fine again.

I told her about my careless mistake. Indeed she was upset and I did feel that heavy guilt, but thankfully, Mishay was back to normal. I could not be more grateful. That call had saved Mishay’s life and had saved my friendship. Who was that man?

Every time the phone rang, I felt a chill run through my spine. I was the only person who was aware of his existence. I surely could not even tell anyone about him. People would think I had gone crazy. Maybe I had.

Two months passed like the speed of lightning. Windy autumn was followed by icy winter. The sky was filled with darkness. The ominous dark clouds gathered overhead. It was that time of the year when old things were disposed and new things created. It was all ending.

I had just returned home from the market. The icy temperatures outside had caused a sudden craving for the warm delight of my blanket. I curled up on the couch, reading and enjoying the view out of the window when the phone rang.

I checked to see the number but it was not visible. I knew who that call was from instantly.

“Look, I do not know who you are and I want to know your identity. How do you know me?” I asked sternly. It was about time. Time to end it once and for all.

“My dear, the sky outside is as dark as the incident you are about to witness. Once the darkness sheds, the brightness appears. You have that power. Go down to the park. Cars will rush. Kids will play and the sun will rise high. You are about to save a life.”

“I demand an answer to my question. Who are you?”

“Only time will tell. Remember what I told you. Do not forget.”

“Tell me. I am furious and–“

The call disconnected.

I had to do what he said.

I went down and stood near the park. Everything seemed alright. What was going to happen?

A girl of about eight was running to get on to a swing. Her didi followed slowly behind. The girl suddenly turned around and dashed out of the park. (Later, we found out that she had forgotten her water bottle at home but was also concerned about another child getting the swing.)

Near the park was a basement where cars were parked. Cars usually slow down as they enter the basement, but for some reason, this car did not. The driver did not even notice that small girl. He was just few seconds away from hurting her.

I ran. I yelled at the girl to move away. Once she saw the incoming car, she froze. I caught her and threw her out of the way. The car was very close now. The driver suddenly noticed me and abruptly pressed the brake. I closed my eyes and waited.

When I felt no impact, I opened my eyes. By the grace of god, the car stopped a centimetre away.

That was it. I was done. I did not know who that man was but I wanted to ended it. As soon as I reached home, the phone rang. It took me a few seconds before I picked up as I was busy rehearsing for the conversation that would happen. I picked the phone up.

“You must be proud, dear girl. You saved her life.”

“Who are you? And you better answer my question this time.” I said rudely.

“Patience is a virtue.” He responded

“Answer me NOW.” I emphasised harshly on the ‘now’.

“It is truly a mystery,” he answered.

I did not say anymore. I cut the phone. There was no point.

Who that man was, it is truly a mystery. Was it an intuition? Or an illusion? Was he even real? It did not matter now. I slowly paced my footsteps back to the sofa and began reading my book again. I did not have to worry anymore. He would never call anyway.

Shreya Rajgopal is fifteen and studies in Class X in The Shri Ram School, Aravali.

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Jerry Pinto: Some Ways Not to Write a Poem

This is the first of the ‘On Writing’ section on The Teen Zine, where poets and authors will occasionally write about the craft of writing.

Jerry Pinto is a poet, novelist and writer of splendid non-fiction. These are his suggestions to young poets.

 

  1. Please don’t try and rhyme. If you do it all the time, you will end up wasting time.

You see what happened there? I started by saying don’t rhyme and then I thought up a nice rhyme and I thought it would be a crime not to rhyme this time and suddenly I wasn’t saying what I wanted to say but I was saying what the rhyme wanted me to say. The last word was suddenly ruling the rest of the sentence. So you don’t have to rhyme. But the words must sound nice and musical. See if you can set them to a beat, a thumpetty-thumpetty-thump.

  1. Don’t be sloppy and soppy.

Please don’t tell me you love your Mummy, she is so sweet, she makes nice things for me to eat.

Oh Goosefeathers, I’m doing it again. I know it is your Mummy and I know you love her. We all love our Mummies. The Egyptians love their Mummies so much they put them in glass cases and charge people to see them. Ha ha.

  1. Don’t write a poem like another poem

If you write a poem that is like some poem that already exists, you’re really wasting time. That poem is already there. It is on the internet. Everything is on the Internet, including pictures of you as a baby, because your parents went mad with pride when you were born and put you up on the Net when you looked like you were a piece of strawberry that had been trod upon by a camel.

  1. Write about what you know.

Write about school. Write about recess. Write about how annoying it is when a samosa breaks when you bite into it. Write about icecream dripping on your shirt. Write about hockey. Write about selfies.

  1. Don’t write inspirational stuff.

Teachers like it when you write:

I will try my very best

in everything I do

But if I don’t win the prize

I won’t be blue

For I know that taking part

Is important too.

But is this what you feel? If you write a poem because a teacher will like it, you are not writing poetry. You are writing suck-uppery.

  1. Write about what you feel. (But do remember point 2 above.)

And finally read lots of poetry. Read it aloud. Read a poem a day. And you might one day write a poem. That will be reward enough.

Shiva Shankar Iyer: Just Another Day

“Shoooootttt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Ranjan was mad.

It was the World Cup Final, where every fan in the stadium were screaming their head off. It had taken days to come reach here and here was the team’s striker, giving me the worst advice in the worst situation possible.

The ball was at least two metres away from me. I had a bulldozer of a defender charging towards me and two midfielders ready to crush me to pulp. I had three options:

  • Run like Usain Bolt and tackle the keeper on my own.
  • Defy aerodynamics and jump over the defender.
  • Punch Ranjan in the face.

The third one sounded really appealing, but I had only a second to make a sensible decision.

Immediately, it struck me.

I ran with all my might for a metre and suddenly –

“Yaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I slid through the defender’s legs in a kind of martial arts kick, taking the ball with me. The poor guy had no clue what was going on until –

Scrunch.

Ouch.

The midfielders behind me were just as surprised as the defender as all three of them smashed into one another at top speed.

By this time, I had managed to spit the grass out. The ball was within my reach. I ran ahead with the ball when I met another defender. This time –

“Oi! Look there!”

By the time he realised he had been tricked, I was well past him and had only the keeper left. The keeper kept jumping around the goalpost, with his hands spread out. Ranjan was keeping pace with me, screaming for a pass. Again, I had three options:

  • Shoot
  • Politely ask the keeper to make way.
  • Punch Ranjan in the face.

I made up my mind.

I mustered as much power as I could, and smashed the ball into the top right corner. The keeper only had time to see something white whizz past him and duck as the ball weaved around the net, aiming straight for his head.

As for me …

My teammates jostled me to the ground, everyone jumping on top of one another. We had done it.

We had finally done it.

The World Cup was ours for the taking. I could hear the crowd roar as people poured into the pitch and fireworks exploded into the sky. Now Ranjan definitely had his hospital bill coming …

“What are you doing???!!!!”

“Ranjan! Watch ou….”

“I said, what are you doing?”

“Eh?”

My vision was still blurry as my eyes focused to the light. I was in my room, with my Chemistry book at my side and a very angry looking father standing near my desk. I didn’t know what to do, so I yawned.

“Get ready for school. You have ten minutes.”

“But Dad,I just had a football match. I’m really tired and the coach said I need all the rest I can get. Even …”

“Nothing doing. Get moving”.

My father always has the final say in such matters. Realising there was no point in arguing, I got up and readied myself for school.

Getting ready was another battle of its own. Within ten minutes, I had packed my bag, ironed my uniform, gulped down my glass of milk and started to tie my lace at top speed. As I was doing so, I looked at my shoe.

It looked HORRIBLE.

Horrible was actually an understatement. I had been playing football the previous day in the slushy water due to the rains, and had completely forgotten to polish my shoes. Without thinking, I took my brother’s cricket shirt, cleaned the shoe, put some polish on it, and it looked good as new. As for the shirt, I was nothing less than a dead man walking.

Finally, I managed to leave my home and jogged to the bus stop. Rajiv was waiting. He always had an expression of someone deep in thought, about when the world was going to end or something like that. Rajiv was always the first person to reach the stop, although he had to trudge up the slope like a camel up a desert dune.

I came up to him and said, “Nice day,na?”

“Hmm.”

“What’s new?”

“Hmm.”

“Dude! Priyanka Chopra’s coming.”

“Whaaaaaaat?????????? “

See, that’s how guys respond. You try to unleash the Wordsworth in you, nobody cares.

Then came the girls. All five at once. I started to say hi when all five of them started giggling. AT ONCE. I don’t know whether some sensor went off in all their heads or not at the same time, but it happened. “Ok, act cool” I said to myself.

“Wazzup?”

“Heh Heh Heh Heh!!!”

“Ahem.”

One of the girls, Shreya, mumbled between fits of laughter and said, “ Look at that dog! Its so cute!”

I looked up and saw a massive greyhound growling at me from the park. When it looked at the girls, it started wagging its tiny tail. I was utterly lost as to what looked so cute in a dog which had the sharpest teeth that I had ever seen, but I kept quiet and started to examine a leaf on the ground.

I got on to the bus, allowing the juniors to go first so that the teachers could see how responsible I was and nominate me for School Prefect. I managed to get the window seat without any trouble, shooing the juniors in the front. As the bus moved on, Rajiv and I got talking. For some reason, guys always run out of topics to debate on. This is what our converstation was like :

“Dude, did you see the match yesterday? The way Kohli was hitting the ball …the bowlers almost cried. Amazing sixes, man!” I said.

“Yeah. Saw it too. Batted well.”

Rajiv always answered in syllables or in morse code. At most, he would speak sentences which sounded like telegrams sent during war time, short and to the point. No extra chakkar.

He then went back to his thoughts and looked out of the window.

At the back, another war was going on.

Shrishti had stolen Shreya’s clip and the entire group was jumping all over the bus to retrieve it.

“Gimme my clip, my mom will kill me!” Shreya screamed.

“Arre, if your mom kills you, why do you need a clip?” Shrishti countered, laughing hysterically.

I was bored, so I tried to butt in.

“Ladies, calm down. Take a deep breath …”

Sanjana took her notepad and swung it at me. I ducked and avoided getting hit by an incoming paper ball from Himani. Shrishti, Eshita and Shloka joined in as the poor clip was conveniently forgotten. A junior in front, who was playing Dragon Ball Z, tried to execute an attack in the air but the bus moved and he hit his friend instead.

“Attack is the best defence,” someone had said. So I left Gandhiji’s principles and started throwing my own paper balls.

“Rajiv! Help!” I shouted.

“Hmm.”

“I’m losing!”

“Hmm.”

I took a paper ball and chucked it at his head.

He got up suddenly and jumped, but hit his head on the top of the bus and sat down again.

Clearly, this was a losing battle. I said, “Alright STOP! Everyone!”

The bus was silent.

“Who was that, I say?”

Ok, now we were in trouble.

That was one of the teachers, Mr Shashikant aka Shashi Sir. He was the PE teacher and very strict. Although you didn’t do anything wrong, he would look at you with eagle eyes which would make you confess something completely unrelated. Legend has it that once a boy came to school with long hair, but went home almost bald. Rumours spread that Shashi Sir had a massive pair of gold scissors which he kept in his drawer specially for boys who had long hair.

“Who was that, I say? Come out of your place, I say.”

I was rooted to my seat. I suddenly found the birds outside very interesting.

“Nobody, I say? Wait, I will come there and you will have it.” He  marched menacingly towards the back row.

Out of the blue, Shreya exclaimed, “I found my clip!!!”

Shashi Sir whipped his head towards her. Shreya whimpered.

The atmosphere was tense. The axe was high in the air. Shreya’s life was a thin line. The axe almost came down …

Shashi Sir’s gaze softened. He said, “Oh, its only the clip, I say? No problem, I say. Be more careful, I say.”

Shreya managed a weak smile and said, “Sorry Sir, thank you Sir.”

Yes. I’ve escaped.

“And what about you, I say?”

He was referring to Rajiv. The poor fellow had hit his head on the top of the bus and was now massaging it vigorously.

“Me Sir? Nothing Sir, please Sir, I didn’t do anything Sir … it was Sh …” Rajiv replied, scared out of wits and stuttering madly.

“What I say? Trying to fool a teacher? You wait, I say, you will have it from me. I say.”

“Sir, please….” Rajiv looked sick with fear, his face turning red and then green, and then a very interesting shade of blue.

Shashi Sir walked away without a single glance.

Everyone was shocked. Nobody moved.

I broke the silence. I said, “Bade bade deshoein me aise chote chote bate hote rahtein he. Fikar math karo, kyonki picture abhi baaki hai!”

I did not see the punch coming five seconds later.

 

After the hungama in the bus, we get down from the bus and trotted towards our classes. I walked past the school ground, wished the teachers on the way, greeted a few friends and sat in the classroom. I entered my class, full of chattering teenagers talking about various topics in the world –

“Dude, did you see Ronaldo fighting with Messi??! Boss, the way the referee got hit …”

Or,

“Have you been to Mainland China? It’s almost like Chinese food!”

Or,

“Hey ya! Did you know? Ananya’s joined math tuition! She’s going out with Rohit! He’s horrible at maths! I wonder why she’s going out with him!”

I really couldn’t see the connection between Rohit, maths and Ananya … but I got the point.

Ok, so I’ve pretty much told you about what we ACTUALLY talk about in class. In my class, I can segregate people into categories

  1. IIT PAKKAWALAS

Quantum Mechanics and Integration is to these guys where pani puri is to us. These guys live, breathe and talk studies. Their only goal in life is to get into IIT, go abroad, become an NRI, go to a roadside coffee shop and ask for a cappuccino (decaf, it seems), and once in a while courier dollars to relatives in India, generally contributing to the country’s economy.

  1. THE “COOL” PEOPLE

These guys always try to impose themselves on other people because they can string together one or two bigger words in English than the general public. They try to act like studs, but thankfully fail miserably.

  1. THE MACHAS

The Machas are a group of four guys who want only one thing– to impress girls as much as possible. They “line maaro” girls at any given opportunity.

  1. THE ALLROUNDERS GUYS

You can only handpick such people. These guys top their studies and are extremely good in their extra curriculars. They never look like they study, and are always cheerfull and ready to help. They almost have an aura of confidence surrounding them.

5. THE QUIET ONES

Neither great nor bad in academics, they tend to be extremely antisocial and exclude themselves from any class activity.

6. CLASS CLOWN

There’s always one, in every class. Most of the time out than in.

I walked up to Shwetha to ask her what we had in the first period.

“Hey Shwetha, do you …?”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“I mean …”

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

“C’mon …” I begged.

She finally stopped after much coaxing and said, “Maths.”

“Wokay, thanks.”

Just as I was about to turn around, she called out to me, “Hey Shiva, did you finish the maths homework? Y’know, the ten sums of matrices?”

I smirked. “Heh, easy. I finished it in class only yesderday”.

Math homework? I had no clue.

At that moment, the teacher entered the class. Ms Sharma was an extremely strict lady, with thick glasses and a stern face. As soon as she walked into the class, everyone ran to their seats and in a matter of seconds, the entire room was silent. Ms Sharma looked around the class, her eyes darting to every corner of the room. Everyone shifted uncomfortably in their places, glancing nervously at each other.

Finally, Ms Sharma said, “Good morning, class.”

“Good morning Ma’am,” we chorused like a bunch of parrots.

She suddenly erupted. “My god! You children never learn! How many times have I told you to say good morning in a dignified and courteous manner? Very shameful, such behaviour coming from twelfth graders.”

“Everyone sit down.” There was a clatter of benches. “QUITELY!” Ms Sharma screamed. The class was silent again.

“Students, open your books to page 45, addition of matrices. Today we will be discussing how to add two matrices. Now, if we take an example to start with….”

She droned on for the next forty minutes without a single pause. I started feeling sleepy and my eyelids began to droop. The ones on the board started to become curly while the minus looked like a missile aiming for five …

“You, stand up.”

I got up from my daze, startled. I had woken up in such a hurry that my neighbour, Vishak, who was one of the Machas, and had kept his hand behind my chair to impress the girl behind us, suddenly screamed out in pain as his hand was sandwiched between my chair and the girl’s desk. Like a chain reaction, she also started screaming at the top of her voice as the entire class’s attention shifted from Exercise 2.1 to Vishak’s hand.

“Ow the pain! Oh the pain! Aiyo the pain!” Vishak dramatically exclaimed. Did I mention Vishak was a theatre artist? He could express pain in a hundred different ways.

“Yes, yes, that’s fine, accidents happen. And Shiva, why did you have to get up so quickly? There’s nothing wrong in slowing down once in a while. Youngsters today … tch…” she tutted disapprovingly.

She bandaged Vishak’s hand using the medical box that someone had got from the First Aid room. As she was doing so, she turned to Vishak and asked, “But Vishak, why were you keeping your hand behind Shiva’s chair?”

Vishak looked stunned for a moment. He hadn’t expected such a question when from the teacher when he thought that the entire class was sympathising with him. I felt really sorry for him. To save him the blushes, I stamped his foot hard. He again started yelling at the top of his voice, by which even Ms.Sharma was taken aback. She started to bandage even even faster, as he continued with his dramatics.

Immediately, the bell rang, its shrill sound resonating throughout the school block. Everyone scuttled out of the classroom for the short break.

“Hmm …” Ms Sharma said thoughtfully. “Vishak, go to the First Aid room and stay there for a while. Your hand will start swelling but it should be fine in few days’ time.”

Oh wow. She had completely forgot that I had been asleep in her class. I tried to slip away as quietly as possible.

“And where are you going, young man?”

Trapped.

“Short break, Ma’am,” I replied innocently, inching towards the door.

“No chance. You were asleep in my class and you will get the punishment. By the way, did you do the ten sums that I had given yesterday?” she asked sternly.

Now there was no getting away.

“Ah … no Ma’am, actually I was …” I fumbled.

“Excellent. You will finish the ten sums and you will do an additional homework of fifty sums and the entire assignment must be submitted to me by tomorrow morning, 8 am sharp. Is that clear?” she finished.

I kept opening and closing my mouth like a fish. “Yes Ma’am.”

“Good,” she said crisply and left the room.

All this while, Vishak had been present next to me, suppressing his smile. When Ms Sharma left, he opened a biscuit packet and asked, “Want one?”

Shiva Shankar Iyer is seventeen and has just finished Class XII at SKCH, Bangalore.

 

 

 

Ananya G Upadhya: Skyward

“And who will help me in the house?” Mother cried.

Muthu turned a deaf ear to Mother’s cries as he brought down a brass tumbler from a tiny alcove in the kitchen. He took a huge gulp of water and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. He spat out a few cardamom seeds that had entered his mouth along with the water. It was his grandmother’s habit to toss a few pods of cardamom after boiling water, and it was this habit that her mother had brought into this house. Some people never change.

“Muthu, the priest has agreed to teach you to read and write, and you must do something useful with your life!” Mother paused here to see if her words had any effect on Muthu’s mind, but discovering the opposite quickly, she turned to her everlasting lament:

“Oh, what will I do with a son in the playing field? How will you earn money if you spend your childhood playing games?”

Muthu merely walked out of the kitchen. He wanted to remind his mother that many footballers were millionaires, but he refrained, very well knowing that she would cruelly tell him that they all had some talent for the game, whereas Muthu did not.

He took eager strides down the road, to where Samuel and David lived. He admired the statue of the Virgin Mary in the lawn. He put his fingers to his lips and made a whistling sound which mimicked the birds’ calls. He repeated this sound thrice, before Samuel appeared, clutching a tattered football. David followed with the wooden sticks which they used instead of goalposts.

They all made their way to Kannan’s house, and then they half-walked, half-ran to Dilip’s house. Then they collected the two sons of the Sarpanch, whom they considered the inferior players, but they dared not tell them, as they owned the grassy square plot that was their playing field.

These boys formed the Kumarakom United. They would have like to play with eleven players, but they had not found anyone “worthy enough”, as Muthu, the captain, put it.

As they approached the field they found a group of little boys playing cricket in it. Kannan, the oldest and largest boy, made it very clear to them about what he was capable of if he was angered, and the poor boys left without a word.

They waited for five minutes for the Kumarakom FC to arrive, and between the two teams the match began. United won with a lead of 5-1. They were clearly the stronger team. In fact, they considered themselves the strongest under-15 team in the district, possibly the state- they had won the Open District Tournament thrice, and were even the defending champions at the State Tournament. However, they had not been allowed to take part in the national tournaments, as none of them had ever seen the inside of a school, except the Sarpanch’s boys, and the national level authorities only permitted school teams to participate.

“Muthu, I can’t come next Sunday.” Samuel said, “Christmas is drawing near, and my mother wants me to help out in the house.” Joshua could not come either, and the Sarpanch’s boys had exams at school. The other boys saw no sense in playing in threes, so they dismissed practice until the New Year.

The footballers gathered near the pond. They were amused to find Muthu fooling around with a set of marbles. They sat on the clayey mud and began teasing him. “Muthu is the baby who is playing with marbles!” “Shut up, you dimwits. Listen to my marvellous plan.” Here Muthu looked up and was satisfied to see six curious pairs of eyes looking at him fixedly. Using green marbles to denote Kumarakom United, and blue ones to denote Alleppey FC, he briefly outlined the tactics he had in mind for their first match of that year’s Open District Tournament. The boys praised strategies greatly. “Here was a boy,” they all thought, “who has never really grasped the basic concepts of Mathematics; and yet he is drawing up game plans that could put the greatest football coaches to shame!” Theirs was a tiny world.

“Muthu,” Kannan spoke, “What is the use of elaborate game plans, and rigorous practice, when we have already done as much as we can?”

Muthu nodded his head gently in assent. Samuel did not know what to make of this, and he asked Muthu the question he had been dreading since the first time they had been told that they would not be allowed to play in the national tournaments:

“Should we stop now?”

And to this Muthu gave the reply he had been replaying in his head over and over again:

“No. We can only go skywards from here.”

Kannan, the wily boy, led them all the way to huge bungalow that nestled in a huge plantation by the side of the river. Samuel had once unwittingly mentioned the tiny boat his father owned, and Muthu and Kannan were only too eager to pull it out from his backyard, and take it all the way down to the river, much to Samuel’s protest. Kannan had paddled this boat against the river current for a distance of six miles, from the part of the river near their village to this bungalow, and he was covered in a layer of glistening sweat. He anchored the boat to a tree with a sturdy rope. They all quietly climbed out of the boat, not out of politeness but out of trepidation. There were only four of them-Kannan, Muthu, Samuel and Dilip. The Sarpanch’s sons and Joshua had chickened out, and Joshua had even threatened them saying he would remind his father of the boat, but he had been bought off with a fistful of animal-shaped sugar candy.

These four made their way to the huge bungalow and went through their plan. “Remember our positions: Dilip near the doorbell, Samuel at the goal kept in the lawn, Kannan near the other end, and me next to him.” They took their positions. Kannan placed the ball fervently on the ground, and Samuel kissed the little cross that hung from his chain.

Dilip rang the doorbell. A tune blared through the house, and an athletic man opened the door. “Yes?” He asked, and Dilip pointed towards Muthu in reply. Kannan began dribbling the ball down the lawn towards the goal, and Muthu took the ball from him and drove it further. At this point Dilip joined them. Muthu kicked the ball towards him. It went high in the air, and Dilip was stopped its movement with his head. He kicked it back to Muthu, who had gained considerable distance, and was only a few feet away from the goal. He redirected the ball towards the goal. Joshua, the expert goalie, blocked it superbly, and this concluded their little show. They turned to see the man standing by the door.

He smiled. “I recognise you now,” he said. He went back into the house and brought back a newspaper and showed it to the boys. They identified their own faces now, occupying a tiny portion of the sports page. ‘Kumarakom United emerge champions again.’ The title said, but the boys would not know this. Kannan traced his finger along the letters, and the man realised that they could not read. He read it out to them, and they smiled proudly.

Back home, Samuel narrated the story with great detail to the other members of his team. “Naresh Kumar, the captain of the Kerala Warriors?” “Naresh Kumar, who fears no goalie?” “Did Naresh Kumar really agree to be our coach?”

“Yes, he did.”

8 years later.

Muthu wheeled over to the empty cupboard that had held his national level medal. He looked at the circular spot that had gathered dust differently than the rest of the shelf. That’s where it had been, until he had sold it to pay for his surgeries.

“Yes, we should probably stop now,” Was the last thing he had thought before Kannan had driven their motorbike into the back of that unforgiving truck.

He had only gone skyward from there.

Ananya G Upadhya, aged thirteen, studies in Grade 7 of Sri Kumaran Children’s Home, Mallasandra.

Saumya Kamdar: The Fall of Pride

There was a man, haughty and proud,

‘Bow to me,’ he yelled at the crowd,

Rude he was and harsh was he,

And he cried, ‘Respect me!’

‘I am immortal,’ he challenged nature,

And God thought, What a foolish creature!

Committing sin after sin, he roared, ‘Foolish people, I’ll surely win,’

And his face lit up with a boastful grin.

Until one day, the God came down,

The foolish creature still had a frown,

He couldn’t withstand the forces of nature.

Lost were the dream of this mortal creature.

No one can ever overpower God,

After all he is our ultimate lord.

Saumya Kamdar is sixteen and a student of Class XII of Rukmini Devi Public School, Delhi.

Ragini Zutshi Anand: Her Life

She stood in her school corridor,

All alone.

She stood in her school uniform,

All worn out.

 

She had been wandering around throughout the day,

Sometimes here,

Sometimes there.

 

Bunked all her classes,

Didn’t speak to anyone.

Missed all her work,

Didn’t ask anyone.

 

To her,

It was all monotonous.

 

Every day she would go to school,

Give her attendance

Then go break the rule.

 

She was a good actor,

She made us into fools

Acting about how she wasn’t surrounded by a pool.

 

By a pool of her own tears,

Consisting of sorrows and pains

That she never really shared.

 

What she didn’t realise was that we could see right through her act,

And that we would obviously react.

 

So that day we made a pact

To restore her happiness, make an impact.

 

Ragini Anand studies in Class X of Sanskriti School, New Delhi. She blogs at iglooonthebeach.blogspot.com.

Alancrita Feroze: I Can Make a Difference!

Leila gazed at the night sky with a longing in her heart. Her questions were unanswered. Her desires were unfulfilled. She wanted to be a space scientist, explore the universe. She wanted to go to a good school, not the ‘anganwadi’ to which she was forced to go. She did not learn anything there. She knew they had enough money for her to go to a good school, but why then was she here?

Questions and questions, but never any answer. Her mother would reply with a sad smile: “Wait until the right time, you will understand. You will know when time comes.”

Time passed. Leila grew into a healthy teenager. It was then that the secret unveiled! Her family was ostracized by society for a crime committed by her great-great-grandfather. They were treated as untouchables.

Her dreams of becoming a space scientist crashed to earth. But then she thought, “No, this is not fair I have to earn justice for my family. I need to do something. I cannot give up. I am Leila Chan and I can make a difference!”

Inspired by great leaders who had changed the world, she decided that she would abolish this unjust system. She made people aware of this injustice. She fought society and its leaders, and made the world a better place to live in. She

And she accomplished her dream. She became a space scientist! Leila Chan became one of the great scientists sought after by the entire world!

Her three qualities–dedication, hard work and determination–made it possible for her to reach the pinnacle of success.

Everybody has these three qualities but they may be hidden. We only need a little effort to bring them out. Will you try? Can you make the difference?

Alancrita Feroze, aged thirteen, studies in Grade 8 of Foster Billabong High International School, Mumbai.