“My Story” Chapter 16

“My Story” – by Randall Butisingh.

(Reminiscences during my life beginning 1914)

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Most people seek pleasure, excitement and temporary exhilaration by watching at the exploits of others.  This feeling does not last. It may end in dejection at the loss of one or the other of the teams you choose as favourite.  Americans spend billions every year watching sports events where their heroes, in most cases, could not be considered role models.  If they should spend that time in acquiring some skill for themselves, the character of the nation would improve. I was a fragile child, but I liked to play.  I was not satisfied to watch others do so, but would like to participate.

This was especially so in cricket.  I remember on one occasion when I was eighteen, our village received a challenge from another village about six miles away,   I was selected as a member of the team, but on the day of the match, I missed the train.  If I were less enthusiastic, I would have remained at home, but I did not.  In those days there was no motor or bus transportation, so I chose to walk the six miles which took me about an hour of brisk walking.

When I reached, the game was already in progress and three wickets had fallen.  The team had chosen a substitute, but he had not batted yet.  When the captain saw me, he could not believe his eyes; a wicket had just fallen, the captain did not even think of given me a rest, but he asked me to get in and bat. We played third class country cricket, sometimes on a poorly prepared pitch and rough out field.  We wore no protection for the hands and legs, and sometimes when the bowling was hostile, we got hit on any part of the body.  Today we had a fairly well prepared pitch and the outfield was fair.

I went in, took my stance, and the umpire signalled the bowler.  I batted well that day, my team mates cheering me on, and mine was the penultimate wicket that fell, for the top score of ten runs, but, in those days of third class youth cricket, it was considered a good score.  I can remember a whole team falling for six runs, and another for three.  My highest score in third class cricket was thirty-six.

At another time, my team was on top of the other team.  They made double the score of the other side; so we put then in to bat with the hope of gaining a two to one victory.  It seemed so until the last player came in.  There were a few more runs to be scored and the bowling was good.  Everyone thought that the last man who was usually the weakest in the team would be unable to negotiate the bowling of our best two bowlers, but a surprise awaited us.  This last man began piling up runs until there was only one left to secure a draw.  The captain, the one who saw me give a good performance with the bat, at that crucial moment, to my surprise tossed the ball to me.  I took a few steps towards the crease and carefully delivered a slower ball which could have been negotiated by a more skilful player, but the batsman was deceived by the pace and he swung with a cross bat before the ball reached the stumps and dislodged the bails – my first and only ball of the game.  You could have imagined the joy of my team mates.  The spectators ran into the field, took me on their shoulders and carried me into the pavilion.  We had won our opponents by a two to one victory

Time and again I would shine at cricket.  However, I was not consistent.  In those days of third class cricket, practice was sporadic, mostly at weekends or holidays or when we could afford gear.  In my younger days we would improvise using the dry broad stalk of the coconut leaf for a bat or fashion one from the green bough of the monkey apple tree.  We would fashion a ball from the same wood;   it may not be round but we used it.  It was not the apparatus that mattered, but the fun we got from playing.

In those days, toys were cheap, but the poor did not easily acquire those things.   There were other things more important to our sustenance, so we had to be imaginative, creative and resourceful, and wait until Christmas to get a toy balloon, a tin flute or a toy gun..  We would craft wood and make tops, use the seeds of the awara tree as marbles or for making buck tops, make toy vehicles from sardine tins with the top cut around three corners and bent to form a  hood, and then tied to a piece of string to drag it with.  We would use the outer husk of the coconut to make a sailing boat, with a piece of old cloth for a sail and a piece of hoop for rudder. We would make rollers from cigarette tins and kites from wrapping paper.   As kids we got much fun from doing these things.   We accepted them as a way of life and we were quite contented.

There were also seasons in my boyhood days for different kinds of recreational activities.  There was the top season when you could buy for a penny a wooden top and a yard of chord to spin it with.  The plug on which it spun was a tiny metal ball, but the boys would remove that plug, cut of the head of a two inch nail, insert and sharpen it; then they had a game in which they would plug one another’s top in order to make a hole in it or slice pieces from it.  The sliced-off piece was called biscuit.  Then there was the marble season when marbles were played in various forms.  This was a boy’s game; in one game they tried to hit one another’s marble at a certain distance and win a button. Sometimes when a boy lost all his buttons, he would pull out the ones from his shirt or jacket.  Then there was the pin season when the boys and girls would play head and tails and try to win as many pins as they can from one another.   Hopscotch was another seasonal pastime, played mostly by girls. Cheersaal and guli danta were seasonal games played by the offsprings of the Indian immigrants.

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