Readers, khaindly refer to the blog below this one for Part 1..which reminds me of Woody Allen's classic - "Of late, I'm at two with nature". On that note....The folks at the gurukul lived up to the ancient times’ hospitality levels. The long ride had helped us work out a good appetite and we were fed with salted-barley water for appetizers. A sumptuous breakfast later, signs of fulfillment spread around the camp. The mind asked me to treat it as a one-day get away to a resort and not worry about the tasks ahead. Put munch ahead of the crunch it said. I waved a silent acknowledgement at the wisdom of the mind. So with a heavy stomach and tired hands I stepped onto the field, with another 20 of my elective-mates.
Taking the test along with us were students from the gurukul too. Most of them looked a couple of feet taller than me, with muscles that could have ripped my right hand and stuck it in my nose. And those were just the girls. Grace and Beauty competed to display themselves in these girls. I acknowledged both and passed my visiting card to them. They weren’t the only things that came in two that I appreciated in them. Mind you, I was all-and-all from a boys-only school. Co-education until then meant doing Math and Science homework on the same day. Many of my school mates ogled at the girls with the keenness of an optometrist staring into a cataract eye. If they had taken out copyrights on Beauty we had taken copyrights on Ogling!
Being the only one who had taken the elective with the intention of chasing marks and not due to athletic-endowment, the size difference between me and the rest was obvious. Even Arif who was the only guy as short as me (+3 inches) bowled a mean leg-spin during the inter-school matches and could run like a march-hare in pursuit. On the contrary I would have preferred the role of the rabbit facing head-lamps.
Without going into all the events, let me highlight the 2 that remain strong in memory, like bubble gum under the sole. The first is the 100 m sprint. Being a ground of limited lengths, the sprint had been reduced to 80 m with the time taken being extrapolated to 100 m. Most of the students including the girls from the gurukul had run it down in around 12 seconds. Yours truly trudged up to the yellow mark indicating the start. To the end of the 80m strip was the sports instructor of our rivals’ school and looking at me with trepidation was my own instructor. I checked if there was an exit at the end of the 80m – one that I could run through to never come back. The whistle was blown and I took off with the force of a mighty wind. It was a mighty windy day. I had a mean look in my left eye and a few grains of sand in my right. The damn start! Wild cheers were sent out knowing I was the weakest link – cheers from both camps. One laced with pity and the hope of saving face, the other laced with sarcasm and laughter. The latter, I observed was coming from my school mates. 18 seconds later I had reached the instructor at the other end, completely exhausted. Some grass had already grown in the otherwise barren ground in that time. He had stopped recording my time at the turn of the 15th second. Anything below that meant no marks were awarded. Wasted calories I thought; I even had to contort my face when starting off.
The second of the events involved doing crunches – 30 of them in 60 seconds. Positioned on our toes, for each of us was one of the gurukul’s students. Mine was this very pretty girl of good height and gorgeous eyes. I think her name had a Laetitia or a Moss in it. Let’s call her Laetitia Moss to provide an identity. Her eyes were so loaded with kindness; I thought she would have participated in Mother Teresa look-alike contests if she didn’t become a sports instructor herself in the future. I introduced myself in a way that suggested I was looking for her mercy more than my strength to take me through this ordeal. Vincent to my left had got a guy as burly as he standing on his toes and he didn’t look pleased with whom I got. He would make me pay richly once back in school. I paid not just for my mistakes but for anyone’s in the last few benches of the class. Such was Vincent’s affection to me. The whistle was blown.
In the next 60 seconds I crunched and I puffed; I made sounds not suited to such societies; I swore at everything I could think of in a way Tibetan monks would have gone at Chengiz Khan’s life-size poster. With gravity pulling me on one side and the girl's legs calling out to me in whispers, I oscillated hopelessly. All I could conjure up were 12. Of these, 4 seemed like I only lifted my eyelids to stare at the sun and fall back without moving other body parts. I was at her mercy. Years ago, on one particularly lazy day, I had melted cheese with a single look. It was that same look that had landed on my eyes this time and deep inside I hoped she was born to the same cow as the cheese.
The instructor came up to each of the toe-crushers and asked them for the count.
“26” said Vincent’s guy, to my left. He had done well. Most of the marks were in his kitty. The instructor moved to the tall girl in front of me. My moment of truth was there – the girl and I exchanged glances. She looked from me to the instructor and back; and then back again at him. A soft whisper of the most delectable whiffs of air escaped her lips – “33”. A hard murmur of the most angered tones escaped Vincent’s – “You wait!!” I couldn’t care lesser! She was my saviour for that day and that elective. I wished to repay her. When we exchanged positions, her completing 42 crunches in a minute didn’t give me much of a chance for that repayment. I helped her back to her feet and overdid the thanking for the earlier help. By we were done and after a very good lunch were heading back to school. Vincent wanted to sit next to me during the journey; He said there was something personal he had to convey. He conveyed a sharp jab into my ribs. It was going to be a long ride and a longer day once back in school. It didn’t matter. I was in a different world by then. The only thing that mattered at that moment was that I had done 33 crunches in a minute. She had said so herself! I had chosen the right elective, indeed!