Another summer vacation had arrived. But this time it was special. The 12th standard board exams were done with and as promised by Dad, this time we headed to our village- a ritual that we do once in two years.
“Kerala-God’s own country! , what an apt phrase” I mumble as I stared at the numerous coconut trees lined near the gate of Madhav’s majestic house.
We had decided to spend the first few days at Madhav’s house.
Madhav-my cousin who is younger to me by a year,and is currently in 12th standard had taken out some time from his hectic schedule for a game of box cricket in front of his house.
My another cousin brother-Vishnu,elder to me by a few months,
had come along too- from Bangalore to spend his vacations here.
Playing box cricket was always easy for me, since defending was my forte, unlike these guys who loved to hit long sixes out of the park. One after the other, they got out quickly, either hitting the ball hard or by defending awkwardly and hence,getting caught.
After some 6 matches or so, the scoreline read:
SOORAJ= 04 matches
Sighing disappointment, Vishnu asked us to play the normal cricket with the boundaries. At least he can vent out his anger of losing by hitting some towering sixes which he does with ease,most of the times.
Madhav too agreed at his point, but soon he changed his view after watching me point towards his house that stood in ultimate grandeur.The walls were coated nicely with sandalwood yellow colour and was devoid of any speck of dirt.The windows were bordered with rich wood and were coated to protect it from wood borers and termites. The window glasses were tainted such that one cannot see what’s inside, but the person inside can see what’s going on outside clearly.The borders where two walls met were coloured in different colours giving it a different aesthetic appeal.The way the house was maintained and decorated was the very reason we decided to play box cricket, instead of the normal one.
“It’s unfair ha!”,Vishnu waved his hands in air,signalling that he wasn’t happy.
“We can’t play our normal cricket here dude!
Your long boundaries will destroy this house for sure!”,I retort.
Madhav obviously agreed to the logical point that I made.
“Then let’s go to some other place to play….isn’t there any ground in the vicinity Madhav?”,Viz asked,trying to apply his brains.
“Umm..yes! There is one ground some 10 minutes away from here. My friends come over there to play cricket every evening.”,Madhav spoke out resulting in a wide grin on Vishnu’s face.
“OK then.. Let’s go there this evening.. Let me see who wins there! ”, he says, his eyes fixed on me.
Although, I knew he can win easily, still I gave it a try.
” Yes! Let’s see!”,I too gave him an intense look.
“Time for lunch boys! ”, Madhav’s Mom called out.
We reached the ground around 4pm. It was about 10 minutes away from Madhav’s house. The ground was vast. The right side was covered by long stretches of paddy fields whereas the left side was covered by dense trees.
The boundary line was on the opposite side of the road from where we entered the ground.
A few feet away from the boundary line was a house, which from its looks, made it clear that it had been uninhabited since a long time.
There were no other houses in the vicinity and that helped the players in smacking the ball fearlessly.
The local guys were slowly arriving too. Most of them were in trackpants or trousers, whereas the elder gang had opted for the traditional “kaavi mundu” that they normally wear. Soon, Madz introduced us to the guys and soon two teams were sorted out.Me and Madz were in one team and Viz in the other.
And that moment arrived in the second match. After losing our first match to Viz’s team, all thanks to some splendid hitting by Viz,he was repeating his murderous approach to the timid cricket ball once again in the second too. The fielders ran helter-skelter to stop the flow of boundaries, but to no avail. Most of the times, the fielders couldn’t do anything but just stare at the ball vanish from his bat straight to the boundary in a split second.
“I think we’re gonna lose this time too Madz”,I mutter to Madhav as I returned him the ball that was punished to the boundary line by Viz.
“Obvio”, he too mutter in disappointment.
“Bowl a slow ball..he’ll try to smack that and in the process,the ball will go high and he’ll get caught out. Give it a try”, I advise him.
“It’s too risky bro”,he said with a shudder.
“I know….but, still give it a try, we have no other option..”, something within me said it would workout.
“Ok then.. Let us see..”
Madhav as decided bowled a slow ball and Viz hit it hard too.
The ball went high up in the air. We were glad he’s gonna be out now.But..
But the brutal force with which Viz smacked the ball resulted in another high towering six.
And above that the ball had crashed in to the window of the abandoned house on the other side of the boundary line.
I was manning the boundary line and hence initiated to go and take back the ball.
But someone behind stopped from doing so. It was Prasad, a guy in his early twenties,my teammate.
“Let it go bro, we’ll manage with another ball ”, he advised me. I could sense a slight tremble in his voice.
“But we don’t have another ball for today’s match! We’ve to retrieve that ball,we want our batting anyways!”,I protest.
“Let it go na! Why don’t you just listen to me? We’ll continue this match tomorrow.Anyways it’s getting dark now. Enough cricket for today.. ”, he said and left the place.
One by one other guys started leaving too.Viz stood there, acting innocent.
“It’s because of you that we lost the last ball we had with us! It’s because of you our team didn’t get batting you idiot! ”,I yelled at him. Madz too joined me giving company.
Viz couldn’t do anything but just laugh and taunt us for losing the first match and the fact that we didn’t even get to bat this time!
“I want this match to end. We need our batting too! ”
This time my team members too join me, and that resulted in Viz’s face turning pale.
Everyone was pointing fingers at him.
“What’s the big deal in that?
It’s just a simple tennis ball!
Why don’t we just go and take it back?”, Viz tried hard to be optimistic.
“But we can’t. That’s the issue ”, Rohan from my team frowned.
“Why so? ”,me and Viz ask him in unison.
A visibly uncomfortable Rohan looked at his teammates, confused whether to reveal us the reason or not. After some seconds, he spoke those words that are still ringing in my ears:
“THAT HOUSE IS HAUNTED!”