Well Done...Sprinter10 mins 16.9K 10 mins 16.9K
“WHAT KIND OF GIRL SHE IS? to wear shorts and play the games only boys can do,” one lady said, as hand pumped the water. Seven ladies who stood near her, started giggling.
“I think she has become crazy. Her parents should be blamed,” the other lady replied in a sneezing voice.
The girl, Alifa had slightly twisted her leg as she passed the football to her brother, who in turn had passed to the front player who had scored a goal. She was the only girl playing in this team, all were boys. She had knelt down on the ground and looked at her left ankle which gave her thumping pain as she couldn’t move her feet. She had bitten her lower lip as she took a deep breath. A single tear escaped from her left eye. She clenched her stomach harder, because she couldn’t even stand up now. But she tried. When she tried to stand firmly, her feet started trembling precariously as if she was going to fall down now.
Her elder brother Bansal watched her from the distance. He thought she would be fine, but on seeing her shaking body, he knew she was in difficulty. He jogged down from the goal post and came towards his sister, whose face had formed wrinkles because of the tormenting pain she was undergoing currently. All she could muster now was to pray to God and get strength to continue what she was striving to do. Yes, she was a sprinter and trying to bring pride to her country. She was playing this football match to give a workout for her knee muscles.
“Alifa, are you fine?” her brother asked, panting with both his hands hips. He wasn’t as fit as his sister, but he was looking thinner than her as if he was starving himself to provide nutritious food to his sister. He was a great friend to her, though he was her brother. She was lucky to have such a gift. Even her other two brothers were good towards her, but they were not as close as his elder brother Bansal.
“Hah, I….am okayyy,” Alifa said with a wrinkle on her nose, and when she tried to walk a few steps her feet stifled and pain thudded in her eyes. She knew it would get worse if she kept playing again.
“I don’t think so,” her brother said in a desperate voice.
But Alifa didn’t want to give up. She put down a next step, but the pain was heavy this time, it had stuck her heart and booming. Before she collapsed on the floor, her brother had grabbed her shoulders’ firmly.
“Let’s windup the game. We will come back later once your wound is healed,” Bansal said.
This time Alifa didn’t protest but closed her eyes lightly. Her two brothers came back and assisted her to go home safely.
It was dark night, except the half-moon peeked out of the sky. It was smiling. The billions of stars were gleaming intermittently. The wind was good and wafting in the street coolly. Even the branches of fir and birch trees were dancing slowly in the village.
“I told you thousands of times, this is not the right thing for you,” Alifa’s mother said in a rusty and corrosive voice. She was pushing the dry wooden sticks into the hollow space of the clay made stove. The tava was getting heated under the fire, which was spewing small bursts as brightly glowed.
“Suhana, Don’t blame her. One day everyone will be so proud of our girl,” Alifa’s father said. He was a farmer and had a potty stomach and well groomed grey beard. He was about fifty years old, his long magenta kurta and his white pajama were loosely stitched. He was making a cot for his daughter. He was holding an axe in his right hand and chipping at the strong pine wood. The sound of tok tok emitted.
“If you keep telling like this, her hair would become grey like you. Then who is going to marry her?” her mother said, and her eyes poured tears as she drew the edge of her cotton sari and wiped it.
“For God’s sake, stop yelling at her,” her husband said as he glared. He stopped chipping at the wood.
Alifa felt sorry for his father, who always had to take her mother’s spiteful words to let her climb her dream. The piece of chapathi she had eaten choked in her throat, making her to hiccup badly. Her younger brother handed her a tumbler and she sipped twice.
“I don’t want to say anything in this household, eh? That’s what you want from me, Huh?” Alifa’s mother said. She banged the spatula ladle on the tava as it made vicious tung sound. The chapati was torn to four pieces like pizza.
“No Suhana, I am not saying like that. Please understand me. You know how I suffered to become a footballer, right? Because of these children, I had given up my long cherished dream. But I don’t want my children to suffer. Let them be what they want to become,” he said. The suffocating memories of his college years brushed past his mind, as he thought about his earlier life. If only his parents had agreed to continue what he was interested, he would have become a great footballer in the country. But his father had prohibited him to take that path, instead asked him to carry forward his farming business and got him married to Suhana, who was only fifteen years old that time. She didn’t even finish her schooling.
Suhana sneezed and said, “That’s why I am telling you, don’t let them suffer like you. I know it is not for poor people like us. Did you ever see a girl in this village running in the early morning? Never. They are having so many chores to do in their houses. Why should they go out and run like a horse, eh? That’s why I am telling her to stay in the house and assist me to prepare meals. Or take her to our farming land and teach her how to cultivate the rice fields.”
Alifa’s father was angry, his fists formed, “Don’t speak one more word. If you keep chanting this, I don’t know what I would do,” he said stormily as his broad chest heaved up and down. His breath became ragged and strained inside his lungs.
His wife stood up suddenly and said in a wretched tone, “See this is what I got from you for serving you day and night restlessly. I shouldn’t talk anything in this house, eh? You mean I should keep my mouth shut all the time, then tie it with this dirty rag,” she threw a piece of black cloth which she had used to lift the hot vessels from the stove, to avoid burning her hands.
Bansal was afraid. Though this kind of family fighting was normal in his household, he had never seen his father would speak as furiously as he spoke today. He knew he had to do something to stop them from fighting, otherwise God alone knew what was going to happen in the end.
He stopped ironing his dresses with the hot water in a bowl. The house was thatched and there were no separate rooms. In the corner of the house they had stacked up all household things in metal trunks. The straw mats were smoothly rounded like snail’s shell and lent on the wall.
“Mom, you better prepare chapatis. Don’t interfere with these things. Why are you getting serious often?” Bansal stormed into their conversation.
She sobbed like a small kid, “Not a single child is here to support me. Everyone is opposing me. Why I should live here? I will go and die. Then only you all will be happy,” she said. The chapati turned into charcoal, the fire was edging out of the stove. No one had noticed it, but Alifa’s small brother came and removed the chapati and put a new one on the tava.
Alifa’s father stuck the axe on the wood ferociously as it was smashed into two pieces, “Get lost, go away from here,” he thundered.
Alifa stood up from where she was, despite the whooping pain in the left ankle which was dressed with medicine and said to her father, “Please slow down dad. Don’t upset her.” And came towards her mother and pulled her hands and stroked them gently.
But her mother shook her hands and released from her clutch and said, “You don’t touch me again. You don’t even show your face to me. I think I have lost my daughter a long time ago,” she scurried down and slept on the veranda like the child was slept in the womb.
Alifa’s foot was normal again after few days of complete rest. She had started practicing rigorously. She had run ten kilometers a day which was two times higher than she had done before. She didn’t even wear a shoe to tread down in the narrow muddy path in the village, which was covered with trees on either side. This path was filled with small pebbles and thorns which sometimes pricked her bare foot and blood would peek out of her sole, but she had refused to take these wounds to her mind.
She had continued jogging down all the places in the village. Sometimes the villagers would cough and hurl biting words at her, for practicing like that. But she had never bothered, and the goal she had clung to her soul was never faded away by their accusing and pricking comments.
Her chanting while running was this, ‘I can do anything. My dream will come true definitely.’ It gave positive vibrations to her. It had crushed her worries and made her to run again and again.
“Dad, I got selected to represent our country in the IAFF world under 20 championship,” she panted when she had announced this news to her father, who had given her warm hug. Her mother had heard this news but sulked and plunged into her house chores again. She thought it was not an important matter to her. For her the good news was that her daughter should learn to cook and make her husband happy after her marriage.
Alifa tried to share this news with her mother, but she turned her head away. But her brother Bansal came and pushed a laddu into her mouth. She had a good time with them. Her younger brother had gifted a violet scarf to her. She took it gracefully and shook his hand and said thanks to him.
The next day she had departed to participate in the tournament. Her father and brothers had come to the airport and whisked their hands at her. She boarded into flight with so much of love. But when she had reached the field to show her caliber in 400 m running, her confidence was little shaken. She was nervous. She was representing her country for the first time. She knew it was a big honor and also the huge crowd was expecting her to perform well.
Her heart was already racing in the circuit like a panther. It was her chance to show her mettle and bring a medal to her country. Her athletic limbs trembled slightly, but she clenched her lips to hide her jolting excitement. She stretched her head upright and placed her two hands on the ground and waiting for the pistol to blown. The thoughts stopped running in her mind when the bullet shrieked in the air. Her legs gave a furious leap as she started running and running and running.
She was lagging behind two people, who were from Australia and Jamaica possibly. But she didn’t care about them, and her eyes hadn’t looked anywhere but on the target. She had to reach it. That was her impeccable aspiration now. She felt like flying over the sky, she couldn’t feel the movement of her feet at all. It was like God was carrying her in His chariot. It was a blissful experience for her.
She didn’t have any words to describe this experience, which can only be cherished.
When the circuit bent, she was still lagging behind them, but the vigorous strength in her soul had pushed her forward like a magnet was pulling a metal. In the flick of a second, she was running ahead of them and she was inching closer and closer to the thick white mark. Her heart was booming in her ears and her cheeks and jaw were trembling like some machine operation. She had almost closed her eyes when she had stomped her feet on the mark. She made it within 51.46 seconds. But she didn’t stop, still continued running as if she hadn’t yet reached the target line.
Finally she knew she had done it. Yes, she knew. Tears spew from her eyes as she looked at the crowd who were cheering her name loudly. She made it. She was the youngest girl who had achieved this tremendous feat for our country.