Dec 21, 2008

Episode TWE12E

If you are new to this story, do not start here. Go to the Index and Introduction page.

Preeti wrote about Deep in her diary that night: '...He seems like the answer to my prayers - someone who understands and appreciates me the way I am. We sit and talk about everything, and I look forward to sharing my dreams and fantasies and ideals with him some day... hope it arrives soon'

The next day was awkward. On the surface, it was just another day at work. But both of them knew they'd be meeting at the beach in the evening, and this could be a turning point in their relationship. It was hard to focus on work, and at 6 pm - much earlier than the usual - they both left office.

Preeti sat down near the waves' edge. Deep sat down, 3 feet away from her - as usual. General chit-chat followed for a few minutes, and then an awkward silence.

'We bulb again', remarked Deep, staring into the distance. Preeti shrugged. She'd accepted that it might take weeks, if not months, for Deep to make an open move, and she'd just have to be patient.

'But I don't like it ... and you don't like it ... so...' He stepped closer to her, and the next moment they were sitting together, with his arm around her shoulders. The moment seemed to last forever. Deep was awkward, because he'd never been in a position anything like this in the past. Preeti couldn't believe what had just happened, and wanted to pinch herself to ensure she wasn't dreaming.

They talked a bit - about how nice this felt and how it should've happened much earlier. Then, they just settled quietly to soak in the moment. The sun was setting on the horizon, creating various  flared shades of yellow and red in the sky and on the water. A few catamarans were visible in the distance - and added to the 'stillness' the moment. Everything just felt perfect. It can't be described here - you could only understand if you were there.

Deep took his arm off her shoulder, and started to rummage through his laptop back-pack. Preeti didn't know what had happened, and wished they could just go back a few minutes - to the moment his arm was around her.

Deep pulled out a gigantic card, and gave it to her. It was titled '101 reasons why I love you', and some two dozen were listed on the cover - such as 'you make me smile', 'no matter how much time I spend with you, it's not enough'. Preeti was overwhelmed, and started to read the whole 101 reasons. Deep settled behind her, such that she was virtually in his lap, and put both his arms around her. This moment, also, seemed to last forever.

She finished reading the card a few minutes later, and was almost in tears. No one had ever held her like that before, and she'd never received a card like this. She'd thought she'd grown out of all this, but now she felt 16-years-old all over again. 'Deep, I don't know what to say.'

He just took her left hand in his, pulled it up to his face, and kissed it. She gave him a peck on the cheek. And then, they kissed - for the first time, blissfully unaware of the world around them, and for nearly a whole minute. Then they kissed again. And again...


Over the next couple of months, Deep and Preeti were inseparable. They were together in office all day, and together on weekends - watching movies and plays, meeting friends at pubs, discs, coffee shops, shopping, and sometimes doing the endless office work. They made no effort to cover up, and within two months everyone in the office knew they were together - including their boss Shubh, and his boss as well.

Deep told his parents about Preeti, and they were happy for him. They reserved final judgment till they'd met her and her family in person, but it seemed very unlikely that they'd create any problems for this couple. 

It was a different story at Preeti's house. While her mom was thrilled and fully supportive, her dad wasn't too impressed with Deep's profile. Not that he had anything against Deep personally, nor did he think Deep wasn't successful and respectable. But, he thought his daughter deserved better than a colleague. While he'd encouraged Preeti to attend good colleges and take up a serious job, he believed she'd eventually have to compromise her career for her family. And to maintain the same lifestyle, social status etc. - she'd have to marry someone more successful than herself. His most preferred profile would be some guy working in the West - with a Masters' degree from Harvard or suchlike. Within India, he'd have liked to see his daughter married to an Investment Banker or a McKinsey consultant - preferably one with a degree from IIM-A, and a salary at least 50% higher than her own. Deep seemed 'nice', but 'not quite good enough'. If Preeti put her foot down, he wouldn't oppose the marriage too much. But Preeti wanted to completely win him over before getting married. Her dad had been the most important man in her life thus far, and she wanted him to be 'happy', and not 'just playing along'.


ICICI Bank - Orange Team was in the Final of the Corporate Twenty20 Championship of Mumbai. Larsen & Toubro A - their opponents - had been the best team in the tournament by some margin. All 11 of their players were young, and most of them had played at the State-level or higher. ICICI-Orange were one of 3 teams that could stake equal claim to being 'second best', and they had barely scraped through to the Final. Their campaign was marked by small contributions from all players, and match-winning performances by 1-2 individuals each time. Warney was one of the four guys who had won multiple matches for ICICI-Orange with their individual brilliance.

Warney had acquired a reputation during the course of the tournament - as 'the destructive number 3, who often hits the first ball he faces for 6'. His achievements included a record 16-ball 50, which he bettered with another 11-ball effort in a later game. The latter (54) came in a match where one of the openers fell for 0, and the other had scored 2 off 4 balls, while Warney and 'extras' demolished the target of 62 in under 4 overs!

While Warney was quite proud of the reputation he'd acquired as a fearsome top-order batsman, he was unhappy with his bowling record. He'd always considered leg-spin his 'primary' skill on a cricket field, and most of his life he'd played on teams as a quality leg-spinner who 'could hit a few with the bat later in the innings'. He found the current situation quite ironical. It wasn't really his fault, though. TV had educated opponents about pacing a 20-over innings, and  spinners didn't really have much of a chance. And, Warney was an 'old-school' kind of spinner, whose game wasn't cut out for a total of 4 overs, typically in two short spells of 2 overs each, to batsmen who made no effort to understand what he was serving up, and were going to swing hard anyway.

L&T won the toss, and ICICI-Orange were batting first. The first wicket fell on the 5th ball with 4 on the board. Warney walked in, for possibly the most significant innings he'd ever played. There was no first-ball 6 this time. L&T were aware of the threats he posed, and bowled a very disciplined length which didn't allow him to free his arms. Warney, for his part, curbed his natural aggressive game, and batted with great concentration. By the time he was out caught in the 14th over, he'd scored 35 runs off 42 balls, with only two boundaries and one 6. The team's score read 75/5 off 13.4. Upon his return, some of his team-mates complimented him on his determined effort, and he could sense others had been disappointed by his inability to force the pace.

Preeti seemed happy, but this was largely because her understanding of the game was limited. She thought he'd done quite well to survive as long as he did, and score twice as many as the next-highest individual score. Warney explained to her that while he had done well to survive, he hadn't been able to do much more for the team. His performance had helped them put up a respectable score, but they'd need about 50 more to win. And as the star batsman, he should've been the man to get those runs. In that sense, he'd failed the team.

The innings folded up for 108 in the 19th over. The 2nd innings began well with ICICI-Orange making some early breakthroughs. Warney came on to bowl in the 9th over, and bowled his quota in one unbroken spell - which was possibly his best in the whole tournament. For the first time in the tournament, he'd got a long spell (as long as T20 allows, anyway!) - and a chance to bowl at proper batsmen who respected the stuff he bowled at them. He finished with figures of 4-0-13-2. It wasn't enough, though. L&T batted carefully till the 15th over, making sure they didn't lose too many wickets too quickly, and a late surge allowed them to wrap up the much with 15 balls and 4 wickets in hand.

Warney hand't been able to win the big match for his team, but he received the man-of-the-series award for 'several breathtaking innings at the top of the order for ICICI-Orange throughout the tournament, and useful contributions with the ball, helping his team to finish as the first runners' up'.

While he celebrated the trophy with Preeti and a few close friends, a dark, middle-aged man in a suit walked up to him, and asked to have a word in private. He looked serious, and Warney obliged.

'Hello, Mr. Bhatia. I'm Milind Damle. I'm a talent scout for the Mumbai Indians IPL franchise.'


Concludes here

No comments:

Post a Comment