“There’s a hole in that bucket,” said Amit to me on Sunday morning – and that’s how the bucket came to be sitting atop the gatepost on Sunday afternoon, that being the place to keep stuff that you want to dispose of; a curious custom, I agree, but then, that’s Bangalore for you, especially if you happen to be old-fashioned enough to stay in an independent house instead of one of those fancy high-rise apartments where you get to keep your garbage right outside the front door, I believe.
The girls were sent off to their room to keep themselves busy after lunch as usual, and I was in the living room trying to get through a chapter of my archaeology text book without falling asleep (an uphill task, much though I enjoy the subject) when sounds from the great outdoors began to slowly imprint themselves on my consciousness. From the sound of it, there was a game of some kind in progress upon the road. I looked out the window and found the boy next door, let’s call him S, engaged in a game of gully cricket with three others. Now I don’t really recognize S – he’s only been a neighbor for a couple of months and it’s a well-known fact that I don’t recognize under-fives until I’ve seen them at least a hundred times (and for older people, that number goes down only very slightly). But there was a bigger, tubbier boy egging on a smaller, long-haired boy by that name, so I assumed the smaller, long-haired boy must be our neighbor, whom I’ve met a mere half-dozen times for a couple of minutes each time. The tubbier boy wielded a small plastic bat. There was a tiny boy who was trying to bowl with a large-ish plastic pink ball. The bucket with the hole had been pressed into use as stumps. And S lounged in the shade of a tree – he was the fielder, of course, hence being loudly admonished by the tubby batsman – until he got up and trundled after the ball, there would be no more batting to be done. Oh and there was also, believe it or not, a wicket keeper. Him I recognized – he was the neighbours’ driver-cum-odd-jobs-man.
I told the girls, “there’s a game of cricket going on down there, would you two like to go and join?”
They stood uncharacteristically shyly at the window and watched the game silently for several minutes. Finally Tara said tentatively, “they won’t let us join.”
From there, it took another ten minutes to persuade them to go out and watch the game from the front row seats, that is, perched on top of the garden wall. Not wanting to cramp their style, I hid indoors and watched unobserved. Nothing happened. Mrini had a tennis ball in her hand, but she refused to pass it to the other kids because, “they won’t give it back.”
Tara went and got another tennis ball, that was not anybody’s favourite (they have about a dozen tennis balls and god alone knows how they can tell which one is a favourite and which one isn’t, they all look exactly the same to me), and tossed it out on to the road. It promptly came back. There were two cars parked not more than 10 feet from the pitch, and at least the driver guy didn’t want to be responsible for any broken windows. Or bones, come to think of it.
Finally Amit came and bullied Tara into joining the game. She went and stood far behind the bowler with the general aim of catching the ball, should it happen to come her way. Mrini was too smart for that – fielding is hot work; she stayed where she was.
The tubby boy had been made out several times in various innovative ways – stumped, bowled, LBW’d, run-out – but had so far stoutly refused to yield. Now he was somehow persuaded to and he handed the bat to the tiny boy and retired to the shade of the tree. Tara agreed to bowl and performed admirably, with two no balls and a wicket on the third assay. Somehow, at this point, it was Mrini who got hold of the bat and the tubby boy who got to bowl. Since he was a bit bigger and older than the rest of the kids, he bowled too fast for anyone and Mrini swung the bat valiantly several times without ever making contact before she managed to get out. Of course, as stumps go, a bucket, even with a hole in it, is pretty difficult to miss.
I’m not too sure what the score was at this point, somebody said it stood at the unimaginable pinnacle of 7. Tara stepped up to the crease – cometh the moment, cometh the man, as they say. The tubby boy continued to bowl and Tara managed, more by luck than intention, to make contact with the very first delivery that came her way. “Run!” shouted the wicket keeper, forgetting that he would ideally be on the other team. Tara looked around in a bemused fashion, and after the ball had been retrieved from the far end of the street and chucked back to the bowler, she suddenly realized that she was the one who was supposed to run. So she trotted off down the pitch and was run out before she’d got more than halfway across.
Well, at least she has potential as a bowler – half an over and she got one wicket, or rather, one bucket to be precise. She’ll go far with a beginning like that.
I left them to it and went back to my archaeology text book, now that I was sufficiently awake. It was only the next morning that I learnt of what became of the game. The tiny boy, it seems, had got fed up of it and taken the bat to the bucket in frustration. A small mound of shattered and shredded green plastic bits now lay on the verge of the road – a sad tribute to our girls’ first game of gully cricket.
Well, that’s one solution to the problem of the hole in the bucket that I bet you never heard of before.