DEEP WITHIN – VIII

Things started rolling at the RPC academy. Practice sessions got intense so did the overconfidence of Punit. He firmly believed that he is the face of the team, his team needs him, his team loves him and everyone wants him to be around. But this belief at least let him improve his game.

But soon he got the reality check that once again raked his vulnerable, volatile self.

Punit overheard the dressing room conversation, in fact witnessed the plot that was being planned against him by the teammates as they were unaware of his presence in the vicinity.

Player 1: Tomorrow is the day when we have to show our solidarity as players of a team.

Player 2: What’s the plan?

Course of their conversation took a sharp turn when the players revealed their intent.

Player 1: We have to make sure that that haughty rich captain of ours is shown the doorway. We might have to under perform, we might have to lose matches but he should not the get accolades of being the captain of a successful team. We have seen enough of his tantrums and dominance and no more we shall dance to his tunes who places himself above the team. Who all agree with me, raise your hands.

Amidst all the murmurs of affirmations and doubts a hand was raised.  It was Aman. He was there watching all the drama unfolding.

Punit’s hate for him was more or less getting cemented with this gesture of Aman.  He was raring to go and smash Aman but pulled himself back and kept himself at bay to listen to Aman’s plan.

Aman:  So basically you want to get yourself out, bowl haphazardly to aid the opposition, fumble in the field only to trample Punit, isn’t it? Or did I miss anything?

Player 1: you got it.

Aman: But why? We can talk to Mr.Sharma about our viewpoint of Punit. We can solve this off field too.

Meanwhile Punit smirked in his heart “Huh, come on Mr.Goody Good, show off your true face.

And the discussion continued in the  dressing room.

Player 1: Oh come on Aman! Are you this naive or acting so? Don’t you feel hurt to what has happened to you? You were overlooked straightaway just to get the prince conferred with the captaincy crown. On innumerable occasions he jeered at you, looked down upon you. This is the right time to set things straight. And do you really feel that Mr. Sharma has any power over the board headed by Mr. Shah to heed attention to our feelings and demands? Had it been so you would have been in Punit’s shoes at this moment.

Aman: Sorry brother, I never appointed you as my mouth piece. And don’t worry about shoes, be glad that you have feet. And for all those who think that his plan (pointing at player 1) should be our course of action, I just have one question, “Is he trustworthy? Can you guarantee his loyalty to anyone of you when you are in Punit’s place? I agree Punit have behavioural issues but he isn’t a bad person and most importantly not a cheat conspiring against own team. I know many among you who seek monetary help and otherwise from him and he was the best person around then but his position now is hurting you all. Why?”

This brought an absolute silence in the dressing room while one person’s thoughts raced and made fluttering noise in his head and wanted Aman to continue so that he could arrive at a conclusion, that’s Punit who was still oblivious to the teammates.

And Aman did continue: put your team first, if it wins those laurels won’t go in vain for you too. And if you can’t be loyal to your team now, I can see a possible traitor in making standing against the country for his personal gains.

Aman’s strong statement was interrupted by the player 1.

Player 1: you got me wrong, it’s for the team only I was talking about. We have to stick together.

Aman: Yes, now you are talking! We are a team and Punit is in our team. And don’t forget I am the Vice Captain and can take disciplinary action against you, remember the rules? Cut this crap and concentrate on your game.

Aman was stern this time, very unusual of him and left the room without noticing Punit…

DEEP WITHIN – VII

“Can we talk?”

These three words had taken them both by surprise. Vikram and Shobhna haven’t ‘Talked’ in ages. The real, heartfelt, profound talk at least. All they had were monologues, meaningless prattle maintaining false intimacy at business dinners and company parties they hosted or attended as guests for the sake of public image.

But today was different, today he wasn’t the business magnate, and she wasn’t a woman trying to save her identity under the heavy burden of being the socialite wife of Mr Vikram Shah. Today they were merely a couple, parents who were desperately failing the capacity of parenthood. 

Mr Vikram Shah entered his home that day as a caring husband and a helpless father, and Shobhna greeted him like a loving wife and a concerned mother. They gave Punit what he wanted, not out of dread of his outbursts or of injuring his pseudo ego but out of one last, desperate attempt to put some sense of humility and modesty into their son. The son who assumed he was somehow entitled to all things he desired by default and was clouded enough by his wrong judgement to the limit of believing he deserved it on merit and virtue. 

Vikram was fretful that night; he gave Punit what he wanted, but he was questioning himself. Was I wrong in giving in to his demands? Will, it put a positive spin on his overbearing and domineering attitude? Where did I go wrong as a father in bringing him up? Maybe I should have sent him to a boarding school when he was still a kid; it would have kept him grounded and humble. Will he ever become the man I want him to be, the man who will be taking over my business empire after me, at least half of it? 

Shobhna, on the other hand, was thinking of a solution. How do I make Punit see others as equals and not undeserving obstacles? How should I teach him the value of being a self-made man rather than being a man of self-esteem? How should I bring him to understand the concept of healthy competition and sportsmanship? 

They both had another dilemma at their minds, about Aman. He must be knowing by now that the academy has changed its decision about captaincy, and he surely must be feeling dejected and victimised. This will sow seeds of enmity between Aman and Punit even deeper. They were both teenagers, and it was not an easy time on them. 

By morning she had come up with the perfect solution, one that would make Punit see that privileges come at a cost and there are no free lunches in life, would bring justice and fairness to Aman and would reintroduce Vikram to his son Punit.

On the other hand, there was a joyful atmosphere in Aman’s household. He read the final list of the team members playing for RPCA and smiled to see he was Vice-Captain while Punit was appointed captain once again. He knew why, he knew money, power and influence go a long way and who could deny the son of the trustee. Manan thumped his back and congratulated him, but Mudit couldn’t resist asking Aman if he wasn’t enraged.

“I am not enraged bro, but I am concerned. I want RPCA to bring the cup home this time and am hoping against hope that Punit would play with his head on his shoulders this time. If we can do that, I am a happy man.”

The next day they were all called by Mr Sharma for their first net practice at the academy as the tournaments weren’t far. He told them to make rounds of the ground for a warm-up and called Aman aside to talk. Punit saw this and smirked before running off with the others. 

“Aman, I know you are a sensible boy, and I owe you an apology. I shouldn’t have given you high hopes when I couldn’t make it happen for you.” Mr Sharma’s eyes were downcast.

“Please, Sir, you are my mentor, you don’t need to apologise to me for anything. Whatever I am, I am because of you, your guidance. I know you too have specific protocols to follow and if you believe in my capabilities, then I would do good as vice-captain also. I would make you proud.” Aman said with a smile.

Mr Sharma thumped Aman’s back and nodded in tacit understanding. Aman ran away to catch up with the others. Aman crossed Punit while running and heard him murmur “Loser”. Aman ran faster and put enough distance between himself and Punit. 

After than run they all lined up in front of the coach and he announced the team. He was standing with a mic at a raised podium, “And one last thing…” He said,

“This year our trustees have added certain…” Mr Sharma paused to find the right word, “Clause to the rules and regulations as to make sure all the players are treated fairly and the everyone plays in the best interest of the team keeping personal scores aside.”

There was a murmur in the players, each one wondering what these clauses are.

Mr Sharma’s voice came back over the mic, “These are as follows:

  1. Like football this time in cricket too every player would be given two yellow cards for foul play, and a third foul would mean a red card that is suspension for three upcoming matches. 
  2. Any bullying, swagger or ruffian behaviour among team members off the field will be treated and dealt severely.
  3. If any player tries to be self-centred and performs an individualistic play, he will be permanently barred from the team. 

That will be all. Start the practice. Punit, Aman, you two are openers so better get synchronised.”

All the players went to the field among whispers and murmurs, and both Aman and Punit knew it was about the new protocols, all of which were explicitly fashioned to restraint Punit’s ego.

DEEP WITHIN – VI

Mr. Vikram Shah, a business tycoon who had come up to this stage where he is today from a very average living condition. He is a man of principle and believes in doing things instead of blabbering to much. But today he is very shaken. There’s a guilt inside his chest eating him up bit by bit for two reasons… one, because he went against his principle to allow his son to be the captain of the team above Aman and secondly, he felt, he could have brought Punit, his son up in a better way so that he would not have been behaving the way he is now.

He reached his home and walked inside lowering his head. He was looking very tired. Shobhna had never seen her husband in this state recently. He is a very high spirited man and never remains in any sort of guilt or regret. But today, he was not in his real self.

What happened to you, Vik?” Shobhna asked with a concerned look in her eyes.

Mr. Shah kept his briefcase on the table and sat down on the couch with a heavy heart. “I am somehow feeling very tired of carrying the load of my son and my principles, as they are going against each other. If I am trying to save one, the other one is compromised.”

What suddenly happened that you are saying like this, my dear?” Shobhna asked anxiously.

Punit was voted as the captain of the team for upcoming tournament.” Mr. Vikram Shah said without enthusiasm.

Wow! Our son will be delighted to know this…but why are you so perplexed… Are you not happy that Punit was voted by all as the team’s captain?” Shobhna asked looking straight in to her husbands eyes, trying to figure out what was troubling him.

How can I be not happy for him, but he was voted because of my influence, not because of his temperament for the game and over all abilities. I stayed quiet, allowing a father to win over a man of principle, a leader unfairly.” He said.

Shobhna understood everything now and asked gently, “Did you hear what Punit was talking about, while I was in the line with you over the phone?

Yeah, I did hear everything that he blurted out angrily on you, a poor helpless mom.” Mr. Shah said as he patted Shobhna’s shoulder lovingly as she eventually sat down beside her.

She took his hands in hers and said lovingly, “So even if you knew Aman was deserving than our son, as a father you allowed this decision to be turned in Punit’s favour?

Mr. Shah just nodded and walked off to the washroom saying, “Call him, and tell him that his father won the battle over a sincere and truthful leader and there was no politics going on in the board as he thinks. Give him the good news.”

Shobhna could not think well about what to do and what not to do that moment. She was unable to think straight. She just messaged her son breaking the news, though he was now not sure whether it was a good news or a bad one. 

That night Mr. Shah had his dinner and went to bed sooner but he could not sleep. He could hear his son and daughter celebrating along with their Mom, he was happy in a way but he could feel there’s a war going on within him. When Shobhna came to bed, she quickly came to know that her husband isn’t asleep, but she allowed him space and tried to sleep herself.

Next morning, when Mr. Shah opened his eyes, he found Shobhna clutching her arms around her, keeping her head down on his chest. “I have a solution for your dilemma, my dear husband.” She said with a gentle and serene smile on her face as she looked up to her raising her head. 

And what is it?” He asked curiously.

As a banker, we never deal with our customers without any terms and conditions. We always let them sign a paper agreeing to something favouring us. I suggest, you frame something of that sort, keeping our son’s attitude in mind. Let all of them sign a paper with certain terms and conditions exclusively made for the tournament which needs to be applied without fail. That way, you can control your proud…Oops…” She giggled and corrected immediately… “Control our proud son and let him aware of the consequences of his misconduct. Either he will learn and behave well or lose his captaincy to Aman during the tournament.”   

He saw a ray of hope to pamper his conscience as he struggled with a guilty conscience all these time.  Later that day, he called for a meeting and let all agree to the idea of a formulating new terms and conditions for the selected squad for the tournament.  

All the players including Punit signed the paper, promising to abide by the rules and regulations but he was so arrogant and boastful that he never read all that even a bit before signing it. The joy of being in the position, power and pride kept him blinded as the first day of the tournament arrived finally.

DEEP WITHIN – V

Mr. Vikram stared at Mr. Sharma eye to eye. He stood up from the chair and walked out of the conference room.

Shobhna recollected herself, but she could not agree with how Vikram is questioning her abilities to perform the duties as a mother. She is worried about Punit. He is at a delicate age where he needs guidance. Vikram keeps himself always busy, so, expecting that he might be able to be that “friend” Punit needs now did not sound right. “Should I really consider quitting my job? Is Punit behaving this way because either of us were not able to give him time? Is it all my fault?” – breaking her thoughts, the phone rang. She answered the phone, but before she could speak, Punit bang opened the door and rushed to her.

In an authoritative voice he said, “Mom, what you said makes no sense. I am Punit Shah, son of the Vikram Shah. Till date I have never enjoyed being his son at the Academy. Dad always treated me in similar way he treated others. I do not even take the liberty to call him ‘Dad’ in meetings, he is always ‘Vikram Sir’. When Dad started his career, was he not supported by anyone? Did he grew his empire all on his own? Mom, being in this sports Academy for a few years now, I can assure you it is not easy to fight all those internal politics and become successful. Now, it is my turn to outplay these politics”

Shobhna asked Punit, “What politics are you talking about?”

These politics where they did not choose me as Captain because I am the son of one of the directors in the board. I don’t think I am incompetent compared to Aman. I am a well established and successful batsman like him. I have also demonstrated leadership skills whenever there was a need. Of course, I did fail at times but those are lessons. Aren’t they? I want this captaincy Mom and that’t it. Please talk to dad and request him to influence others“, Punit said in a requesting voice this time, tears rolling down his cheeks and fled out of the house.

It was Mr. Vikram on the other side of the phone call, but the call got disconnected. Shobhna tried calling him back but there was no response. Mr. Vikram had wet eyes after listening to what his son had expressed. He composed himself and started walking back to the conference hall.

Meanwhile, in the conference room, Sharma was clueless of what was happening. More than 10 minutes have passed by and it was pin drop silence in the room. While Sharma was still contemplating whether to speak or not, Anjali, one of the members shot a question at him, “Mr.Sharma, You must have done all the analysis, before you made this proposal. Are you really confident that Aman would be able to handle the team considering he may be opposed by some of the team members as the captain?“. Some others nodded in agreement. Sharma understood the deeper meaning of Mrs. Anjali’s question, she was inferring that Punit may not co-operate. Well, Sharma was aware of that, but he has not really thought of how to deal with that yet.

The conference room door swung open and it was Mr. Vikram Shah. Without noticing this Sharma continued, “I understand the concern, but we cannot put future of this team in the upcoming series at risk because we fear some of our players may not agree. Aman is more composed and stays calm when making decisions on the field. Also, he is well respected and has good relations with many team members. He also understands the nuances and weaknesses of opposition players. He is very good at observing the on field strategies of other players and acts accordingly. He is exactly what we need now”.

Who is your second recommendation?“, asked Shah from behind. Sharma startled a bit before answering, “Mithun“.

Shah: So, you think these are the only two competent players for captaincy?

Sharma: Yes, Sir.

Shah: You also think these players are going to uplift spirit in the team and have better chances in the tournament with this change?

Sharma: I am positive Sir

Shah: Good, then, let’s vote for the best candidate.

Sharma: Sir, you have not read the complete proposal

Shah: Is there something I should know before I can vote?

Sharma: Sir, Sir …. (murmuring)

Shah: Let’s vote

After going round the table, most of the panel voted for Punit as the new captain. Everyone clapped for the new captain which ended the meeting.

Shah: Mr.Sharma, I trust your decision making. I walked out of the room because, a part of me was blaming the father in me. Maybe, I completely failed to teach Punit about the importance of hard work and putting forward a fight for what we want. Nothing comes easy in life, Punit should learn that. I am glad you’ve put the future of our team as the top priority. Thank you!

Mr. Vikram returned Shobhna’s call, “I am coming home in half an hour. Can we talk?

DEEP WITHIN – IV

Aman was walking down the footpath to the bus stop lost in his own thoughts. He was thinking about Punit’s little drama. 

“It’s not even official yet and Punit is behaving like this. He is surely going to make my life difficult as a captain. How do I tackle him. He is one of the star batsmen. If he revolts then surely there will be a split in the team. Why is he so headstrong? I should try to talk to him once again.”

Aman boarded the bus. And someone called out his name. He turned and saw his elder brother Manan and his friend Mudit sitting in the back seat. They were coming back from their tuition classes. Manan was 2 years elder to Aman. He was studying to be a CA. He was quite good at his studies. Both Aman and Manan were talented and hardworking. They were well aware of their father’s financial condition and knew that to improve it they will have to work hard and take the family out of this condition.

“Hey Bhai! The coach is considering my name for the Captainship of the team.” Shouted Aman excitedly even before he reached the seat. There was a hoot of joy from them and a round of Hi-fives… Aman settled in the seat in front of the Manan and Mudit and turned around. He rattled off the morning’s happenings.

“This Punit sounds like trouble.” said Manan. “Be very careful of him.” were the wise words of the elder brother.

“Ya! What the hell does he think of himself. If he is the son of the trustee of RPCA does he think he owns the whole academy. He is nothing but a rich brat… very arrogant… How dare he call you slumdog? I don’t trust him one bit. These kind of people only know how to climb using their surname. He should be thrown out of the team” added an agitated Mudit making a disgusted face. 

“Easy easy… Mudit you sound like you are getting ready for war.” laughed Manan. “Don’t be so biased. He is after all an exceedingly good batsman. He will remain in the team.” added the level-headed Manan. 

Aman was looking from Manan to Mudit and wondering what a deep muddle he had got into and how was he going to get himself out of it.

Meanwhile Coach Sharma was getting ready to submit his recommendation of the final list of players to the board of trustees. He was sure he had made the right choice and that it was the best team they had put forward in the last few years. This team would really go a long way in the coming tournaments. Hopefully they will win the cup too.

Coach Sharma entered the grand conference room of RPCA. It was a huge room with wood panelled walls and a long oak table reminiscent of the grandeur of the British era when this building was built.  All the twelve trustees were seated at the table. After all this was a very important meeting, the team was being finalised today. Mr Sharma passed out the copies of his dossier to all the members and waited for their response. At the head of the table Mr Vikram Shah opened his dossier and had a grim look on his face…

DEEP WITHIN – III

A storm passed in Punit’s room but his heart is not yet at peace. Shobhna entered into his room silently, silence which was only camouflaging her inner turmoil as she already was hinted by the maid. Punit’s behaviour was always a matter of concern for Shobhna. Trisha was a mature person despite of the turbulent atmosphere in the family. She was a clone to her mother in maturity.

What happened Punit? Why are you upset?” Inquired Shobhna in an intentional meek voice.  But Punit was all flaring up in rage  “Don’t disturb me Mom, I am not in a mood for your preaching. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you all! That loser, good for nothing coach is overlooking me, The Punit Shah, son of Vikram Shah for that Slumdog Aman for captaincy. I’ll show them all that they are nothing and team is Me” and he continued spitting venom while Shobhna heard everything in utter silence and a hint of disgust as she was witnessing a outright selfish, self obsessed, arrogant person in making and thinking whose fault is this.

As Punit paused Shobhna took the chance to speak her determined mind “this is no way to speak to anyone or about anyone, I hope you received some etiquettes as a child, haven’t you?  You have to calm down first“. Shobhna had a calm demeanour to her voice as she was arranging the storm hit room and meanwhile trying to infuse some sense into her son’s disoriented brain and she continued “your problem is not your coach or Aman but your own attitude that makes you think that you are above all. Stop taking yourself too seriously dear“.

Punit stared at his Mom fuming as she settled besides him.

Shobhna: “Look, let your talent and hard work speak for you. Don’t use your surname as your passport and don’t let your bad attitude be your signature. It’s high time before you mend your ways.”

Punit: “I told you already don’t give me lectures about on ethics, etiquettes, values.  I am grown up for this nonsense chatter of yours. Do they know who am I, I will show them.”

Shobhna exhaled sharply, nodding in disbelief, posed one question “Do you know who you are? Try to prove your identity as Punit, not as someone’s son. Do you have that courage? Can you be the one who you desire to be without all the luxuries holding your back?”

And she left his room leaving the ball in Punit’s court.

DEEP WITHIN – I

“Sir, how can you choose that slumdog Aman?”, Punit asked his coach disrespectfully.

Mr. Sharma made a quick reply – “Why not Punit?”

“Sir you know very well that Aman can’t afford to lead these….”, Punit smirked.

“Stop your speculative argument Punit, it is none of your business”, Mr. Sharma said with an air of authority.

 

This argument between Punit and his coach Mr. Sudhir Sharma, did not go down well with the other players. Mr. Sharma noticed it too. But he knew that it was nearly impossible to calm down Punit. So he quickly made his way towards the field to help the other players.

 

Seventeen year old, Punit was a die-hard cricket fan and was desperate to become a superstar cricketer. He always addressed his fellow students with an authoritative voice. His peremptory attitude was deprecated by all. In other words, he was the only pugnacious member of the R.P. Cricket Academy. The reason behind Punit’s behavior was that he was the son of a famous business tycoon Mr.Vikram Shah. Mr.Shah was a man of principles and he was adored by everyone around him. But it seemed that Punit had not inherited any of his virtues. Moreover, Mr. Shah was the trustee of RPCA, So Punit enjoyed his own reign in the academy.

 

On the 1st of November every year there was an inter-city cricket tournament. Punit was always chosen as the captain of RPCA even if there were other deserving candidates, just because he was the son of Mr. Shah.

 

Punit was actually a good-for-nothing captain. He used to pick up fights with the other teams and only for Punit the entire team of RPCA had been disqualified, many a times in the past three years. Mr. Sharma had had enough of Punit and this time he wanted Aman to lead RPCA. Aman, unlike Punit was like by one and all. He had won hearts by his humility and his mind-blowing cricket tactics. He had amazing leadership qualities as well, which lay hidden because he had never been given an opportunity.

 

Somehow Punit learned that Mr. Shah wanted Aman to lead the team. He became furious and confronted his coach. But, it yielded no results. The very thought of Aman leading RPCA got on his nerves. He was determined to castigate Aman. “If I inform Dad, he will tell me to relax and try harder next time. Huuuhhhh!!! No, it’s of no use. I’m almost 18, and I can handle my problems, I don’t need any one’s help”, Punit angrily murmured to himself. He clenched his fist in anger and violently swung his arm with the intention of throwing his bat. But just as he was about to release his grip, he felt someone’s hand on his shoulder.