For all I know, the race was going to be the mother of all.
I knew it since I watched being discussed endlessly and was being speculated to be a fight between yellow and green for the Cock House finish. The winner would claim and kiss the coveted Cock-House trophy for being the overall winner. The mounting desire that each cadet nurtured to out do each other was no hidden secret and I was no exception. Thus everyone got readied for this one last test. Route familiarization, rehearsals, strategies, pairings, were all being carried out with utmost precision.
It was a run the entire school was looking forward to. Passion was at its pinnacle before the annual cross country race of the school. On the wave of the flag I set out, sprinted towards the end of the parade ground, got onto the main road that rolls down a steep incline towards the school gate. My secret aim was of reaching the defile which unfolds along the canal, first. I had my task cut out and was all set to execute it with precision unmindful of the physical pain. From now on I would whimper no more, and I felt one with Pheidippides of Greece with a message to deliver, doubt no more of my grit and resolve. I wouldn’t need no energy gels, no fluids,just a bit of cheering from the stands for one knew that the road taken accords no preferences or hindrances to the venturers chasing their dreams. Each one of us knew what lay in store was exquisite torture till the end, but on their own will power each was trained to fend.
The towering eucalyptuses, the intermittently planted stout cashew trees on the wasteland below, sprouting bramble growths on the way side, even the ditches and potholes en route – all seemed to be amusing wayside markers ushering me on.The route turned towards the left past the majestic school gate that stood immersed in blue and just before the black asphalted road hit the turn towards the town, an orange mud path wound through the coconut groves alongside a canal allowing you the right of way.
This picturesque natural abundance is followed by the climb onto the barren hill, right at the place from where the Ammumma kada is just barely at the tree line. There I climbed the uphill scouting ahead with a hungry Yellow in tow and reached the level, leaving the pump house and the Officers’ quarters behind, where the final struggle was to unfold. I was sticking to my lessons right. Ask more and your body gives you more. Mind commands and the body adapts in line to its unending demands.
The attainment of triumph, the soul’s unwavering want was just strides away. The cheers fell on my listening ears pepping me up to gallop even fast, the finish line. I needed more and for more I did duel. Duel with my instincts and the will to conquer. Clear blue skies, pearly clouds and the setting sun. The world seemed so perfect and life so beautiful. Flexing muscles demanded more blood flow. Burned up oxygen to edge forward left me gasping for breath. And then, a bolt of pain that streaked up my calf, left me limping a bit. It didn’t take much time to change to tearing pain, and along with it a riot of questions thrown up in my mind went unanswered. I drew blank.
My castle of dreams came crushing down leaving no trace. Holding my hamstring I bent down, bowed down, limped a bit, hopped a bit and stopped. Dejected I watched the Yellow pass by. At that I tried to collect myself but my spirits would fail me. With the finishing line in sight I sat there on the wayside.
From there I saw him turnaround and stride. Is he confused, is he lost, I wondered? He strode and reached up to where I hunkered. He hooked me on his shoulders and exhorted.”Buddy, move on! Let’s walk a bit and then run a bit. Let’s finish this bloody race.” At that moment, the shades of Yellow and Green paled out. What remained in its place was this indiscernible but immaculate shine of brotherhood and friendship. This is dedicated to the spirit of elite clan of Kazhaks who are ever ready to walk a mile with a buddy in need.