Anna watches in awe as IPL players are auctioned for what he calls "an exorbitant amount of money”. His questions range from, "How do they determine a player’s worth?" to "That is a king's ransom!"
I don't answer his questions because I don't know how to. One, I am not a cricket crazy Indian - the outlier that proves the rule. Two, Anna sometimes gets confused trying to fathom the cost of things in 2016. His strong memories of costs are from many years back. Like when you could send a postcard, yes postcard, for 25 paise, and a cup of coffee at an expensive place was Rs.25/-. I run him by the standard logic thread of the comparative years, impact of inflation, GDP growth rate,etc.
Then Anna tells me, "You know I had a glorious football career?"
"Really Anna!?", I ask.
This is the first time I've heard that he had a career in anything other than working for the Government Of India or UNDP.
“Was this when you were young?”, I ask.
Anna confirms this with an "Yes."
Seeing the small smile, I should have realized there was more to the football career. But the mind-numbing cost of IPL players and the economics lesson made me a little slow.
Here is the story he tells me.
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When Anna was about11 years old, his father sent him to Erode Middle School for a "good education". Within the first few days of joining the school, the boys were taken to the field to play football. They watched as the two team captains, Abdul Sattar and Arunachalam, carefully measured the distance between the goal posts and the field. The boundaries were marked by stones and rocks. The field itself was a packed-mud field on which they played barefooted.
Then came the critical time of choosing the team. The captains, stood two arms-length apart with the rest of the class standing in front of them.
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"Srinivas Murthi", he said with confidence. Anna was thrilled at being the first boy to be chosen. Anna was tall for his age, and Abdul Sattar believed that the longer length of his stride would be advantageous in a game of football.
Anna stood next to Abdul Sattar and whispered his choices for the other members of the team. Once they had 15 players per team, the game started. There were two 45 minute stretches of hard & fast running on the field, bare footed in the heat. Then the match ended.
Anna does not remember if they won or lost. What he remembers is that like all good captains, Abdul Sattar gathered them around, and told them that they played a good game.
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Anna was shattered. He was tall. He was the first boy to be choosen. He had run strong and hard on the field.
Bewildered he asked, "Why? I ran between the goal posts so many times, and faster than anyone else."
Abdul Sattar acknowledged Anna's running skills and said, "Yes, you ran fast ……. but your foot didn't touch the ball even once!"
Thus ended what Anna calls, his "Glorious Football Career"!!
Anna had never seen or played a game of football before that day.