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A Walk in the Park

By Anamika Mukherjee

Last Friday, I worked from home. On Sunday, I developed a mild cold. On Monday night it turned into an extremely painful ear infection. By Wednesday evening, the infection was under control and I had been on sick leave for three days, and away from office almost an entire week. I was feeling apathetic and distinctly un-energetic, but I decided to go to the neighborhood park just to get out of the house. So off I went at the blissful hour of 5.30 pm.

The park was full of children of all ages, playing and running around. It is a large park, neatly divided into two parts. One part is full of manicured lawn with lush green grass and well-kept borders. The other part is a large, sandy playing field. Between the two parts, dividing them, is a set of high steps running the width of the park. After I had strolled around the park lazily a few times, I went up the steps and sat close to the top with leafy ferns brushing my hair.

From this vantage point, I could see three parallel games of cricket in progress and one football practice session. The cricket pitch closest to me had two small boys and two bigger boys comprising four teams (one per head, as is the way in such neighborhood games). One small boy was bowling and after a couple of balls, he decided (unilaterally) that the innings was up for the big boy at the crease. A certain amount of bargaining ensued at the end of which it was decided that the big boy at the crease was entitled to bat two more balls, and then he must retire (whether he was out or not).

After which, the two small boys started negotiations for the next batsman at the crease. Negotiations involved a variety of methods such as the old paper/stone/scissor method and the even older I’m-bigger-than-you method. Eventually the other big boy intervened (not the previous batsman), and (probably by dint of being bigger) was sent in to bat. The other big boy bowled, and at the first ball, bowled him out. This was hotly contested by the big boy at the crease, though it looked pretty indisputable to me. All sorts of fancy phrases thickened the air, from No Ball, through Dead Ball, to Wide. (Bowled out on a wide???)

Finally, the batsman cajoled the bowler to bowl again. This time he whacked the ball over the head of one of the little boys, standing at forward short leg (or long on, or long off, or gully or something; it’s all the same to me). The little fellow, seeing the ball coming at him with the speed of a bullet (actually, more like a punctured cycle), ducked his head, did something with his feet, and promptly fell down. Meanwhile, the cricket ball sailed well over where the little boy's head had been and went and got entangled with the football.

Once it had been retrieved, the bowler bowled again and promptly bowled out the batsman. Again. The decision was contested this time too, but by now the batsman's varied arguments distinctly lacked conviction.

One of the little boys took the bat, and the other little fellow bowled to him. Soon enough, he was bowled out too. But not before the batsman had taken a few swipes at the football which every so often wandered across the pitch.

In fact, the footballers didn’t seem very successful at keeping their ball in their arena – they mostly sent it across one of the three cricket pitches and had to wait for the cricketers to return it. At least they managed to keep it in the field – which is huge. The other day, when Chris and I had gone for a walk to the park (yes, we had; even if it sounds very Jane Austen-ish; we even carried apple juice and wafers and we picniced on the grass!) a football came shooting out of nowhere and hit her hard on the leg. And it really is a large field, I tell you.

Based on all of which, I came to the conclusion that:

  • There is hope for the next generation of Indian bowlers,

  • But not so much for the batsmen,

  • And practically none at all for the footballers.

  • And, that a walk in the park is a better cure for an ear infection than antibiotics.

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Copyright 2008 Amit and Anamika Mukherjee. All rights reserved.