Boxer All The Time - Part 3
Boxer All The Time - Part 320 mins 470 20 mins 470
The next day morning, maybe around 4.30 a.m. they heard a knock on the door. Mariya and Santhosh both were in deep sleep and they couldn’t hear anything. It was Dhanya who shook her mother to inform that someone was knocking on the door. When Mariya had opened the door she was surprised to see a few neighborhood people standing there with grievous faces. They didn’t tell what has happened. She boomed at them. The lady about forty years old revealed slowly that her mother was dead. On hearing this, her heart failed to function for a few seconds, and she regained consciousness slowly. How come my mother is dead? She was here in the evening and talking with us nicely. No way, she couldn’t have died. Mariya shook her head wildly and yelled at them for bringing wrong news. She pushed them to get out of her house in frustration. The old man whom she knew from the young age came forward and consoled her and let her weep on his shoulders as brushed her hair gently. She became calm down. He didn’t say a word that her mother was dead. Nobody knew how she was dead, but it was true, yes, damn true. When her mother returned back to her home, she had felt a stomach ache and she felt it would be okay if she had something to eat. She had even responded well to her husband’s questions and gave him tablets to swallow. It was just before she went to sleep on the bed, her stomach ache increased violently and felt that her nerves were tightening up in her legs and arms. She didn’t know what was happening to her. She couldn’t speak up, and her throat was itched and scrunched. Her brain slowly faded and she suddenly collapsed on the floor while turning off the switches in the living room. Mariya’s father did know nothing about her death until he had seen her breathless on the floor about three o’clock.
The funeral happened smoothly, but Mariya’s eyes weren’t dried up yet after crying for a long day. Even Dhanya cried on seeing her mother. But the little baby Bhavika didn’t know anything about it. She kept seeing new faces surrounded by her. Santhosh was as hurt as Mariya did. He wouldn’t still believe his mother-in-law’s death, and it was like a dreadful nightmare for him. The past memories about her were kept swarming around his brain like bees. Though he was mentally a strong person, he was still a kid when it comes to facing such depressing moments. Mariya had decided to quit from playing in the boxing games. She wasn’t going to practice from this day. After losing her mother, who had greatly inspired her to become a successful boxing player, she felt like she had lost everything in her life and she didn’t have to prove anyone that she was great at boxing again. Also, she had lost faith in the selection committee and her chance to compete in the Olympic Games was very distant. She thought she should at least be a good mother to her children from now onwards. Even her mother wasn’t there to take care of them. Not only them, but she had to take care of her father too. Her tears were drained now. Her eyes were swollen as if she was beaten by the contestant in the boxing ring. You could still see some stretch marks in her left cheek, lower jaw, and left to her forehead. These were the painful treasure she still had with her to claim that she was a boxer once upon a time.
The next three days, her house wasn’t even running the television, and all were hung up on the sofa with dull faces and their shoulders dropped. Only Bhavika wasn’t caring about these things, she was, as usual, stirring in her crib and crying for milk and again falling into sleep. Even Dhanya could feel the emptiness created by her grandma’s sudden death. Mariya’s father’s health was deteriorating for the past few days, and obviously, you know what the reason was for it. He was coughing regularly now. His knees pain became worsened after he was tripped down on the road earlier, only his physical body stayed here, but his living soul existed somewhere with his wife. Last night, he had broken the glass tumbler in sheer vexation, because he wouldn’t keep disturbing his daughter for all the things. But Mariya coolly said to him that she was there to do anything for him as she gently clasped his fingers. ‘I am still your daughter,’ she said with her bright face. Even she flipped a smile to make him comfortable in her house.
She enjoyed doing the home chores. She was feeling great again to serve everybody. She felt like even doing the home chores were challenging. But she did everything with a smile on her face because this was the thing she had learned from her mother. Her mother always told her that if you love what you do, then you won’t feel like working at all and enjoy your every moment. That is an absolute truth and she was living in it. Her hardened and stiff arms and legs became lose and not rigid now because she was no more undergoing strenuous exercise. She became like any normal woman in Indian houses. Even she could feel some extra fat in her stomach, which was always as hard as stone earlier when she was practicing for competitions. But she absolutely loved the transformation that was taking place in her body. These days she even had noticed a few wrinkles in her face, particularly beneath her left ear. Change is an inevitable force acting in everybody. She didn’t have to bother about this much. She knew.
She even had enrolled in a library close to her house and started reading some good novels. She loved to read Chitra Banerjee and Kiran Desai books. Not that she wanted to become a great writer. But simply for the fun of reading. She also loved reading comic books, which was both fun and intriguing. During her free times, she had learned how to knit a sweater, which was her mother’s long-lasting hobby until her death. But Mariya was poor at it, and her father complained she can’t beat his wife on this art. Mariya smiled and accepted the truth. The love she had missed earlier with her father was returned back. It was smoothing her hardcore feelings. Her father too cherished staying in her daughter’s home and spending time with his grandchildren. Particularly, he loved to lullaby Bhavika while she cried in the crib. He felt at least his stay was somewhat meaningful as he did those things. Also, he had taught Dhanya how to improve her mathematics skills since he worked as a teacher in a government school and taught various subjects to the school children. Santhosh also longed to stay at his home and chat with them for long hours. But Mariya would ask him not to destroy the name of the bakery by coming early to the house. She feared the quality of snacks prepared in his bakery would become bad since he was trying to spend most of the time with his family. Santhosh swore her that he would never cheat customers to pursue his happiness. She believed his words. Whom she can trust more than her husband? You can clearly understand this equation for sure. Life was again going on a smooth path after wreaking situations. Mariya would ask her husband to take her and her children to the park on Sundays. But Dhanya would sulk her face and be adamant to take her to the movie. Because of her only they had watched a few movies in theatres. Dhanya always loved to see action movies, maybe she would have received that fighting spirit from her mother. She had already watched the Raid movie, she was a big fan of Ajay Devgan. She had watched his hit movie Singham at least three times. She was a movie freak. Mariya’s father was getting better these days. The nagging worry about his wife was replaced with sumptuous happiness. But still, he would look at his wife’s photo daily before he had fallen in sleep. Nobody knew about it including Mariya, that he had always had put his wife’s photo beneath the pillow and sometimes at the middle of the night wake up with her memories, and look at the photo with glistened eyes, and drink water, and prop on his bed again. But he loved doing it.
After a month, the telephone rang in Mariya’s home. Her father who was sitting on a sofa lifted the phone.
“Hello, am I talking to Mariya?” a husky male’s voice said.
Mariya’s father cleared his throat and said, “This is her father Seshadri speaking.”
“Ok, this is Chandrasekhar, the head coach of boxing,” he said. This time his statement was very bold. “Can I speak to Mariya?”
“Of course sir,” Mariya’s father said. He couldn’t hold the receiver firmly. He closed the mouth of the receiver with his hand and called her daughter’s name loudly. But Mariya was busy applying baby powder to Dhanya who was standing on the bed. There was a rhyme playing in the background as speaker was connected to the audio player. She was dancing to her favorite rhyme ‘hickory dickory dock’, and Mariya found it was difficult to make her ready.
“Dhanya enough of dancing,” Mariya said sternly and shrugged her shoulders holding her purple frock in her hands, “If you don’t wear this dress, I am gonna turn off the player,” she warned.
Dhanya wasn’t in a mood to wear her dress, she was still bouncing up and down on the bed, which was squeaking now. Her little sis was sleeping soundly despite this noise.
“This is not going to work out,” Mariya said, and sighed as climbed down from the bed and walked straight to the player desk and put the volume very low.
Dhanya was abruptly unhappy and howled, “Mom, please increase the volume. I wanna dance for it,” her lips were puckered already.
“You can’t hear it until you wear the dress and have breakfast,” Mariya said as shook her index finger in front of her.
Now her daughter’s head fell down, “Ok mom, your wish,” she announced finally.
Suddenly her father entered into the room and breathed harder, “Mariya, Mariya………..” he said aloud as peering into the room.
Mariya slowly walked down towards him. She didn’t know why her father was all of a sudden calling aloud her name. She was confused and worried. She was eagerly waiting to know what message her father had brought to her.
“Yes dad,” she said, as her daughter’s purple frock was clenched tighter by her hands.
“Mariya how many times I called your name. What are you doing here?” her father said. He was standing behind the door.
“Sorry dad, I was wrestling with this poor little demon,” Mariya said, she wanted to smile but didn’t.
“Ok, the head coach Chandrasekhar is in the line,” her father announced rapidly. It wasn’t the time to discuss family matters. Mariya had to hurry up now, otherwise, the call might be snapped.
“Is it?” Mariya said, her lips and eyes were trembling as she conveyed her excitement and unwillingness at the same time. Her feet didn’t move. Why he had called me now? Does he want to tell me that I am permanently disqualified from participating in boxing competitions? Does he become frustrated because I didn’t simply contact him for the past few weeks? Her murky thoughts only strangled her breath. No, she wasn’t going to think about it anymore. Going through fear is better than backing away from it which was more dreadful than fear itself.
“Yes, come and talk to him, quick,” her father said.
She immediately ran down the floor to attend the call. But she hesitated for a few seconds before she took the receiver and placed it on her ear.
“Hello, hello………………” the head coach kept talking because he couldn’t find no one responding him for a long time. He felt like disconnecting the call.
“Yes sir,” Mariya said, her hands were holding the end of the receiver tightly. Words were coming out of her mouth after much difficulty.
“Hah Mariya, how are you doing? I hope you are enjoying with your family,” he said, his voice was friendlier now. His thick lips parted slightly.
Mariya didn’t know what to say. It is always wise to talk truth because we don’t have to remember anything.
“Yeah a little bit,” she said. She was somewhat feeling better now. Her nerves were calmed down. Her fingers weren’t shivering anymore.
“That’s nice. But………….” He said and halted immediately, he was trying to measure her reaction through the telephone. Though it was difficult, he can manage somehow. Her breath pattern was enough to make his job easier. Yes, she was anxious about the news.
Her heartbeat thudded faster inside her chest. He could hear her breathing was thick and smoldering.
“Please tell me, sir. I can bear anything. My soul is already hardened after many tragedies,” she said. She had meant it. Her decision to drop out of boxing, her mother’s sudden death and how she was devastated in both instances. But she wasn’t sure if he knew that her mother was dead. She hadn’t informed anyone apart from her close circle.
“No, I didn’t bring any tragedy news for you. But I think you would love to hear it,” he said.
Mariya didn’t think about anything, even though her mind was swaying in between various thoughts. But nothing had convinced her. She simply can’t guess it. Her adrenaline was pumping furiously now. What news can probably bring cheers on my face? Is he going to invite me to his daughter’s wedding? Is his son earned a medical college seat in a top college? She dismissed all her thoughts again. She felt like she was overexcited. But she never thought of the possibility of her selection to represent our country in the upcoming Olympics boxing event. She knew it was an unattainable dream and she hadn’t least expected her participation.
“Please don’t bring more suspense, sir. Please drop that bombing words right now,” Mariya insisted.
The head coach took a deep breath and said, “You got selected for the Olympics boxing game. Yes, you are going to represent our country. Are you happy now? This is what you have dreamed, right?”
But why now? Mariya wanted to scream at him. No, I can’t participate, she wanted to tell him uprightly. But she hesitated to invalidate his expectation on her. She looked at her arms which were strengthless to beat anyone out there in the ring. She doubted herself if she can even beat a twelve-year girl now. She had completely drawn out of boxing, and even the thought of participating, in any event, was exhausted from her brain. She was already secluded from the game. No, I don’t want to embarrass the people’s faith in me, she shook her head hard by clenching the receiver.
“I am sorry sir, I am no more interested in this game. I think I would give a par low performance even if I am willing to accept this offer. No, I don’t want to ruin the reputation of my country just because I have a temptation to get another gold medal. I am sorry sir. I couldn’t help you much on this,” Mariya said. She wanted to blurt out many things, but she was afraid he didn’t have the patience to hear all her stories. But she wanted him to know how she was feeling now. It was not that she didn’t want to participate, but she knew it was a nightmare to go and return with empty hands. Because she knew what was her capability after she had chosen to become a housewife. She was enjoying this change, she didn’t want to come back and fight for her country again just for the records’ sake. Though she wanted to fight, it was a sucking dream and she would end up in losing side. She was aware of it. Rather than participating for vainglory, she was ready to give up.
“What? I can’t understand what you are talking?” the head coach said, he shifted the mobile phone on the other side. “Am I speaking to Mariya? I don’t think so.”
Her eyes were struck with tears. She pressed her eyelids tightly as few tears escaped and crawled down her cheeks, “Sir, please try to understand me. I am a loser and you don’t bet on me anymore. You can’t expect me to win, because I have traveled a long way to divorce myself from the game,” she said and disconnected the call. The word divorce almost pulled her to the extreme point of pain. She hated herself for telling this. Damn, how much I have loved this game and how I can even conceive of such brutal words in my mind, she thought and vexed. Actually, she was exhilarated to hear such an honor come from him, but she had refused to show her hidden pleasure for the sake of goodwill. If she would have received such a call before her mother was dead, she would have jumped to the ceiling to show her extreme enthusiasm. But not now. She plunged on the wooden sofa and wept as buried her face in her hands. She didn’t make a sound, because she knew her father might hear her tragedy and worry about her haplessness. She didn’t want to give him that chance. She knew he was rocking Bhavika in her crib, she heard the low squeaking emitted from it. Dhanya was channeling a new song ‘jingle bells jingle bells…’. She loved this song because she had even danced on the stage in her school for last Christmas and New Year celebration event. Mariya and her husband participated in that and they had enjoyed watching their daughter dance well and earned a prize. But Mariya wasn’t in a mood to chew those memories and milking pleasure from it. It was the time to go deep into her heart and find a correct solution for her deplorable problems.
The telephone rang again. She didn’t know who made this call. Maybe Santhosh wanted to remind me to bring a lunch box to him. Maybe this call from EB office, because the bill wasn’t paid yet? Maybe this call from the gas office because I have enquired with them about last month subsidiary pending? No, she had dismissed all the thoughts and ran to pick up the receiver before it rang thrice.
“Hello,” this time Mariya said first.
“Hi Mariya, this is again your head coach,” he said in a sore voice, but he wasn’t frustrated. He was only trying to convince her, “See, I don’t want to play a hide and seek business with you. I will tell you the real scenario. You then decide what best you can do, okay?” he waited to hear her response, but he didn’t. So he continued, “Our boxing team is under crisis. I mean we couldn’t identify anyone to put a feather on their caps. I mean, we are short of finding a quality boxing player from women’s side. We thought of playing our cards with Jasmitha and Swetha but both of them were disqualified because of the doping case. Yes, the National Anti-Doping Agency has found cocaine in their blood and they had sent a notice that they aren’t eligible to participate in the boxing. I felt they had poured burning charcoals on our faces, for trusting them heavily. I was shocked and surprised when I heard such anguishing news. That was the gift they had given us for pinning our hope on them. Such bad girls. I had never imagined they would fall very low like that. Shame on them,” his words were coming out of sheer frustration and fuming. You could hear the thick and lacerated words coming from him. It enunciated that he was in a bad mood.
Mariya didn’t know how to react. She was definitely not happy the way her juniors ruined the good culture she had inculcated for nearly a decade. Vehemence on them brewed inside her chest, but she had dropped it. She knew forgiving is the only medication that will bring peace to her soul. She had read somewhere that the person who can forgive would be sharing a place in the heart of God. After all, she always believed in God’s grace and His almighty power. She always sought His blessings and He had never pushed her in turmoil. Even though she had come across up and downs in her career, the failures had always taught lessons to her. Those failures had been her guidelines to lay a path for success. She was a firm believer in this philosophy. There wasn’t an inch of confusion in it. Though she wasn’t a philosopher or great prophet, she knew the life lessons through her experiences.
“That is really a stupid thing. I didn’t expect they would be falling prey to the drugs. I can’t believe this,” Mariya gushed out.
The head coach sighed heavily. He gasped.
“This is all our fate. It’s like we have brought chilli powder with money and poured on our heads. It just made us stifle, wrench and strangle,” he said and paused a few seconds before he continued, “But Mariya, our final hope is only on you. If you refuse to participate in this competition, I think it isn’t easy to find another person to represent for this high adrenaline pumping game. If I can’t find the right woman to represent our country, I think I have to lose my job. I am sorry to speak like this. But I don’t have any other choice than trusting you. I am even ready to fall on your feet to let you participate in this big game,” he said, his vocal cords were quivering. Mariya knew how much he was suffering because of those brainless girls. She was only grieved for him. But she can’t say okay just because he was requesting humbly with her. No, this was a deadlock situation, and she had never expected he would come back knocking on her door. Oh God, why you are testing my temptation ruthlessly? Can I pull off this big game? No, it is a disaster to say okay and ruin all the name she had earned so far just for the sake of his earnest request. She feared and her brain was almost exploded like the big bang when she thought about the consequences if she said okay to him. She cupped the mouth of the receiver for a minute, and closed her eyes and let her mind free from the wrenching thoughts. There were thousands of thoughts creeping at the same time with different combinations like she was solving a permutation problem in mathematics. She ran her shivering fingers underneath her long nose and wiped the small beads of sweat. She slowly opened her eyes, and her ears seemed to be functioning now after long hours of deafness.
“Okay, I will do it. But give me ten days’ time. You measure my performance and if you are impressed I will participate, otherwise, I will hang my boots again. I am telling you this because I haven’t gone to a single practice session for last one and half months. I knew my muscles are no longer stronger. But I only pray to God that He will give me the sufficient energy to practice again and make me stronger to prepare for this game. I think you would have understood what I am telling,” she said. She was happy about taking a decision finally which didn’t hurt him much. But at the same time, she was frightened for giving such a hefty promise without taking much time to think about it clearly. Though she knew her husband would definitely ask her to take this chance, she was still afraid and nervous. But in the end, she made a decision and she wasn’t going to change her stance on it. She was committed fully once given promise to anyone. The head coach was well aware of it. In fact, his face bloomed like a lotus flower on hearing such news from Mariya. He was anxiously waiting to hear those words. Yes, he wanted her badly. He knew he made a wrong bet on those poor girls, who had betrayed him.
“That’s enough Mariya. I am happy. I am happy that you are going to make it once again. Let me know what you need. We are there twenty-four hours a day to serve you. Thank you, I can’t expect more than this from such a great person like you. I have full faith in your ability to pull good things from bad things. I am happy…..I am happy,” he said. He drenched fully in joy and pleasure. His heart didn’t know bounds.