Hand in hand, Todd and Catty walked on the clean Pondicherry shore, the sound of waves like music to their ears. Todd, a busy lawyer and Catty, a captain with merchant Navy, were best friends from school days. Like always, they needed to leave their wives behind to catch up on some boy talk for a couple of hours. On Catty’s insistence, Todd did not carry his cane and followed his friend’s hand, gaining trust in his guiding skills every step of the way. “I still cannot believe you cannot see”, Catty said taking Todd into the water. “Well, hard truth is often not believable. You never believed that I kissed Radha that wonderful evening after the match.” “I don’t think you even got close to sniffing that beauty’s scent, forget a kiss. And why the hell would she kiss you passing the smart cricketer Catty, who thrashed their team out of the tournament?” “Who did you say did that?” Todd growled twisting Catty’s arm. They instantly got into their wrestling fit abusing each other for lying before collapsing on the wet sand, out of breath and thinking about that fateful day, which changed Todd’s life, rather both their lives forever.
The clash between the rival schools was termed by many as the clash of the Titans. Loyola Public School (LPS) and Central Public School (CPS) were the best of schools in Bangalore and though their locations were in each other’s proximity, they were far from being friends. While LPS was run by discipline savvy Jesuits, the teachers at CPS hailed from the armed forces. Their rivalry was not just limited to students but extended to teachers and parents as well. Any competition between the two schools was a fight to tooth and nail.
Cricket is a religion for both the schools and they have always had the finest teams in the country. That particular cloudy day, the schools were playing a match as a part of their preparation for the state school tournament. The Central Public School won the toss and opted to bat first. They scored 154 runs in 25 overs. It was a hard day in the field for all players on the LPS team and especially for Todd. In addition to dropping two tough catches, Todd had also conceded 24 runs in his last over. Although he was primarily a batsman, he bowled a bit of leg spin whenever he was required to break a partnership. Todd did not disappoint his best friend and captain, Catty, when he was given the ball. His Googly deceived the well set batting star of CPS and he broke a sixty run partnership. Pleased with his performance, Catty gave him another over, which proved to be a disaster for the team. The fat, left handed, hard hitter from CPS hit two sixes and three fours off Todd, making him look like a joker. “You better make up for this when you bat,” Catty said menacingly, as they walked off the field after the rampage.
For the track of excellent batsmanship, Todd batted at number 3, the slot reserved for the best batsman in the team. He managed to retain the spot for more than a year with his heroics. His batting feats helped Loyolites win several tournaments previously, and after winning the best batsman award at the National Schools Cricket Challenge, his batting place was cemented. According to the plan, the LPS team had an aggressive start for batting. Their openers, Catty and Srini, made the best of fielding restrictions and scored forty runs in the first four overs. But in the fifth over, Srini was out and Todd walked into the field, amidst loud applause. Although he has never played against this CPS team, he felt confident about handling their bowling attack. He observed their first set of bowlers and they did not seem the troublesome sort to him. Once at the crease, Todd looked up and smiled at Catty at the other end, while taking guard for the leg stump.
Todd assumed his unusual stance, similar to that of Krish Srikanth, to contend the two balls left in that over and glued his eyes on the four cut ball. The first ball was a full toss and Todd drove stylishly through the covers for a four. “As easy as it gets,” he thought as he grinned at Catty, who was half way through the pitch. The last ball was an in swinging yorker and Todd managed to get an edge to steal a single, retaining strike for the next over.
There was a change in bowling and a six foot lanky boy, who looked harmless to Todd, was given the ball. Despite his riveted concentration, Todd sighted the ball until the bowler approach the wickets but could not spot it after that, he only heard it viz by him. The speedy ball took Todd by surprise. Unable to comprehend what happened, he walked to the side and visualized the motions, his pounding heart blurring his thoughts all the way. ”Is this guy bowling so fast that I cannot see the ball? he wondered as he walked to the crease And got ready for the next ball, willing himself to watch the bowler’s arm closely. The lanky boy took a slightly longer run up this time and bowled. Todd never saw the ball coming. He only felt it smack his face, through the helmet, and everything went blank in an instant.
When Todd woke up, he felt a terrible pain on his face. His eyes were closed with a bandage and his nose felt like a heavy log. “Hello Todd”, he heard Catty’s voice. “What exactly happened? Why can’t I see?” Todd asked, grimacing in pain. “You got hit by the ball and blacked out. We had to carry you to the Loyola hospital.”
“Catty, I know that a ball hit me. What happened to my nose? I feel like it has been pulled out of my face. And why the hell are my eyes bandaged?” Before Catty could respond, the doctor, who had just walked in said, “Unfortunately, the cornea and retina of both eyes have been damaged by the impact of the ball and you will not be able to see. …” All Catty remembered after that was silence, a very long thundering silence.
Fifteen years had passed since then and Catty could still feel the deadly quietness. It took Todd more than a year to accept the fate, two years to adapt to his blindness and almost a decade to regain confidence. “That was a bad match”, both of them uttered at the same time as they slowly got up and traced their way back to the resort. They really needed to get to the bar and grab a drink, a drink to lighten their hearts, heavy hearts filled with memories, fond yet painful memories, which never seemed to fade.