“Phreeem..”, the whistle sound was always a gush of adrenaline to me. “4–1”, the score board read. ‘Jennie, head to the left’, ‘Jennie, the left!’, instructions to me never managed to catch my interest.
Th ball & the net and how to put the ball in the net was all that mattered. Two steps right & one step left, side-side charge & a step forward; the ball was all under my control.
And with one hard hook kick, the ball went all the way across the field crossing by the defender right into the net. ‘5–1, Jennie’s team wins! “Phreeem”.’ and applause followed.
Like a mirage, all of it faded away slowly as i came back to reality. Staring at a million-dollar framed picture does bring in nostalgia! I smiled blissfully keeping it back on the shelf. Heading next to my trophies, Mondays were always house-cleaning days and the shelf of sports souvenirs was my favorite department.
I am Jennifer, Jennifer Louise Mathew. A former football champion. Now, a psychology professor, a mother to a 12 year old genius and the wife of a business magnet, James Mathew.
Moving on to dusting my trophies, it was like stepping exactly into my past, to the match that got me this particular trophy. The opponents were supposedly dangerous ones, my coach warned me as the match began. It was tough getting control of the ball. I dribbled a little more and did a toe-tap. Good! The ball came in control. I now had to turn sideways and do the punt kick but even before i could turn, Sarah gave me a tough side-side charge, a deliberate push, a well planned attack piercing her shoes right through my feet. “Phreeeem” & we lost!
‘Ah! The guest walks in home! Much awaited surprise! Football champion of St. Mary’s with a broken leg. How does it feel like to lose? Jennie!’ Sarah sniggered.
‘Well in my case Sarah, you must know that it’ll always be a win-win!’ I jolted her upon the wall, having a neat grip of her neck while I kicked really hard at her shin bone. ‘May you have a happy sick leave.’ I left her wimping just the way she did.This was me. Rough, savage, brute & reckless.
‘Another suspension & we would have to dismiss your daughter sir. The top ranker, the sports champion but yet! She has to deal with her temper issues.’ My dad had to handle several of my suspension disasters. ‘ Jennie!Why do you keep repeating the same mistake over and over? Why do you hurt people? No matter what they do, doesn’t mean you have to choke them like that & break their shin bones!’ My dad, my super hero called me his best asset & his worst disaster. An army captain in service, he raised me a tomboy. Little did he know that the brat his daughter used to be would change into mini-mother Mary! I giggled as i kept the last trophy back in place & turned to the mirror.
Life changed after marriage! Not because my husband didn’t love the boyish me. He in fact fell for my ruggedness. He was a nerd and i was in the contrary, a bad-ass rowdy. Opposites attracted. He, an introvert and me, an extrovert. I took him up like a project and the more i studied him, the deeper i fell in love. After we married, along with happiness, came in harmony. My interests changed, my temper tantrums vanished. Peace became a priority and a happy married life set in.
The doorbell rang. ‘Ma!’, it was my little angel, Agni.
My daughter & I are polar opposites. We shared a strong bond, with a lot of emotions and not much communication. Agni loves art & craft, the reason behind my little home being an art museum. She’s more like her dad, calm & composed. A girl of few words, matured beyond her years!
Today, she looked peculiarly dull or rather upset. I preferred to observe than to investigate. The next 3 days, she didn’t go to school, the first day because she had stomach ache. Might be due to menstruation. The second day because she said she had fever, but the doctor reports claimed perfect normalcy and the next day due to apparent headache. At this point, it started getting me worried. My daughter never lies and rarely opens up. There was something which was definitely troubling her, something definitely solvable.
The 4th day, I chose to spend the evening with Agni in the garden. Agni sat by me, resting her head on my lap. ‘Baby, looking at you reminds me of my school days.’ I said, stroking her hair. ‘I had friends, plenty of them. And as I grew up, the number of friends multiplied. But then, now, I’ve got a friend who means a lot more than a best friend to me, whom i love more than anyone else. Guess who?’ I looked into her large innocent eyes.
‘Mmm. It’s dad!’
‘Nah.’ I smiled
‘Granny?’ She looked inquisitive.
‘It’s you my girl. You are my best friend! I’d be with you through your thick & thin. While you’re sad or angry or happy or disappointed, I’ll be there. When you’re right & when you’re wrong, when you’ve achieved & when you’ve lost, when you’ve done good and when you’ve done something wrong, I’ll be there for you. Always!”
There was a tear in her eye. ‘Ma.’, she inched closer & hugged me tight. ‘Baby, if there is something, ANYTHING that you want to tell me, know that I’m your best friend.
‘Ma, I did a mistake and I’m scared.’ Her voice quivered.
‘It’s ok! Everybody does mistakes, I’ve done mistakes too. What is it my dear?’
‘The other day ma.’ She sobbed. ‘I was at school, doing my assignments after my teachers left. The security was walking by the corridor locking doors.’ She gripped me tighter and sobbed more. ‘I went inside my class to get my bags and when I turned around, he blocked my way. I told him to move but he pulled me close and put his hand into my trousers ma!’ She broke into a million tears.
Blood inside me boiled. Gathering all my patience left, I asked, ‘And what did you do in return?’
‘Ma, I pushed him against the wall. Got hold of his neck and kicked him really hard on his knee. I feel so scared that I’d get expelled.’ She sobbed.
Hah! Like mother, like daughter. Need I say more? I cupped her face & said, ‘Baby, I named you Agni for a reason. Those who choose to play with fire would indeed end up getting burnt. You punished him for the right reason. I am proud of you my girl! You have now become independent and strong!’
Six months from that day, on my birthday, Agni gifted me a fairly large gift. What stood gleaming in front of me was a massive trophy that read “FOOTBALL CHAMPION ON THE YEAR-AGNI LOUISE MATHEW.” The making of Junior Jennifer was at it’s peak. Genetics sure does play its part!