Now the fellow with the commanding nose was, in a very deep voice, chuckling. Manju drew closer to his big brother. Radha was not doing much better. With an open mouth he saw the black-panther limbs come closer and closer to him and his brother. You sit and wait with the others. Engine on, car gone. A magician came thirty years ago to a village in the Western Ghats with an elephant. Not an elephant that did normal work like moving logs with its trunk or pulling down trees, no.
It had a secret power, the magician said. He left the creature in the village square and walked a hundred feet away from it—too far for it to hear him. People gathered around the magician. Young Mohan Kumar was one of them.
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Three times. Mohan watched with his mouth open. That massive beast, with all its muscles, was helpless: It obeyed the brain waves of its master, it suffered the enchantments of his black magic. When he went back to work, Mohan, a thinking boy, had looked around at the other farmers toiling in the wheat fields, and realized: We are no more unmanacled than that elephant.
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This was a truth about life he had never forgotten, even after he had left the village and come by train to the big city. No one bought a thing from him. Heaving his bicycle over his head, he walked over the Dahisar River on the all-but-submerged bridge of bricks, then slammed the bike down and cycled through the cardboard WELCOME TO OUR HOME arch shielding his eyes from the gaze of the grinning politicians , past the broken homes and little shops, until he got to his own, where the sight of his neighbor Ramnath pressing white shirts with a stupid industriousness was so unbearable that he went to a tea shop for relief.
He squatted by his bicycle and blew on the hot tea. He seethed. I know what he is telling that visionary investor about me. He is calling me a chutney salesman. A thug.
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A peasant. An idiot. Tommy Sir, I say these words slowly, why? So that even a man of your mental capacities may understand them. Here are two more words pronounced slowly for you. Do you know what they are? Do you know how to prescribe them? I have taught myself medicine and pharmacology.
Tommy allegedly Sir: Where were you when my sons fell ill? Where were you when they needed someone to sit by their side and record their temperature every half hour? To the very place where you humiliated me. The moment Mohan Kumar began sipping, the legless man had to make noise on his flute in a corner of the shop.
This legless fellow performed every morning in the train station, and came here afterward. Holding up his glass of tea, Mohan Kumar looked at the flautist. Have pity on me. Think how much I have suffered in life. Please stop. The flour mill began its rumbling, giving off pungent fumes—it ground red chillies in the second shift, adding burning eyes to its customary noise pollution. Mohan Kumar kept looking. The legless flautist kept playing.
Very impressed. He almost cried. For my lateness, forgive me. Can you read my T-shirt? Manchester United Gold Key Supporter.
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I have a cricket academy near Azad Maidan, did Tommy Sir tell you? Australia is the reality principle in cricket, Tommy Sir: otherwise we Indians would think we were good at this game. Am I right, or am I right? A small square forehead, held tight by close-cropped hair, expanded into a powerful black brush mustache over a stone-crusher jaw; a white fold of fat at the back of his skull broadened down a thick neck into a wide chest and wider paunch whose width he exaggerated by letting his shirt hang loose.
His fleshy palms had clearly done no hard work, and yet he seemed to sweat a lot. You are a lucky man, Mohan Kumar. Like a gangster introducing a gun into the discussions, Mohan Kumar suddenly placed a white cotton handkerchief on the table. Within the handkerchief was something black and heavy; he unwrapped the white layers to reveal a very large cell phone, which he proceeded to squint at.
I congratulate you on shedding all inhibitions. Now, relaaaaaax. Has Tommy Sir told you the arrangement I am proposing? Since he was not allowed to be present when his sons were exhibited like buffalo at a weekly fair. In return, I negotiate for him in the future with Adidas or Nike or whoever wants him when he joins the Indian Premier League.
Fair enough? It is not fair in the least. They will grow into the Bhimsen Joshi and Ravi Shankar of cricket. From a slum. Hungry Lions. Pepsi, Coke will love those eyes and hair. He will act in films one day, I say. The investor proposed terms. And he has the right background. Because a middle-class boy can no longer make the Bombay team. You saw for yourself what that Javed Ansari did today. He has everything, money, background, pedigree, but he will never make the team. He comes to practice in an air-conditioned car, with nurse and driver.
It was one of those moments when Tommy Sir realized his age: A decade ago, he would have got up and walked out at this point. Four thousand. Are we done?
And fifteen thousand for both. Two is the opportunity. People want sport and a story. I know, because I am also a writer. Two brothers from the slums making it big. One of them looks like a film star. To which I give the answer: Indians, my dear, are basically a sentimental race with high cholesterol levels. Now that its hunger for social realist melodrama is no longer satisfied by the Hindi cinema, the Indian public is turning to cricket. Brothers X and Y from the slums. Playing cricket for Bombay. I can see the potential.
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I once donated a lakh of rupees to a school in the slum near Cuffe Parade, back when I had just returned from New York. You know what the Mumbai Sun did? Called me a hero, and printed my photo. Page four.
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But Brother Y is too young. Push and survive. In sport there is not always a difference between a boy and a man. What is cricket, anyway, Mr. Game of chance. Take two, one may win.
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