It was Charlie’s fifth birthday and he had been waiting eagerly for the morning of April 28 to arrive. He has been planning for over two months now, what all he intended to do. More so because his father, Mr. D’Souza, had promised Charlie of a cricket bat with a MRF sticker; just like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. Charlie wanted to grow up to be a cricketer, just like his favourite cricketers.
Charlie woke up before his parents and rushed to the drawing room expecting a lot of presents stacked up for him. However, there was nothing. He waited patiently for his parents to wake up. Charlie’s final exams at school had ended and he was waiting for the new term to begin. The clock ticked 6:15 AM. He hoped that his mother would wake up any minute. He didn’t want to go and knock on the door of his parents’ bedroom and disturb. He sat on the sofa and waited… 6:25, 6:35, 6:45… Charlie had fallen asleep on the sofa while waiting for his parents.
His mother, Mrs. D’Souza, a 35-year-old lady, who had just started her baking start-up, woke up to find his youngest child asleep on sofa. She went back to her bedroom and woke up Charlie’s father.
By this time Charlie had woken up and jumped up on the sofa shouting, “Bat! Bat! Bat!” Before Charlie could say anything anymore, his father had gone back and presented him a wrapped huge box. Charlie touched it and he felt unsure. It didn’t feel like a bat but a huge box. Charlie looked sad.
“Open it up, don’t sulk,” said Charlie’s father.
Charlie quietly sat on the sofa and started unwrapping the gift box. Suddenly a ball popped out.
“Ah!” Charlie led out a shriek in happiness. He did not half expect this.
His unwrapping speed went up by five times and within seconds the six wickets, six wickets, four bails, one tennis ball and a brand new cricket bat was lying on Charlie’s five-year-old lap. Charlie started jumping in joy, letting the wickets and bails and ball roll out all around the drawing room. He jumped on his father and started kissing him in joy.
And, then suddenly he stopped. He ran back to the cricket bat and picked it up and saw something. His face turned gloomy. Something was missing.
“What happened?” his mother asked.
“No MRF?” Charlie asked his father with teary eyes.
Charlie’s father started smiling and went up to him. He patted his light, silky black hair. “Boy, do you think Virat and Sachin started playing with the MRF bat? They earned that label with years of hard work.”
Charlie did not look satisfied. He wanted the MRF bat. He didn’t care. His reputation was at stake.
“But, no one will believe this!” Charlie started sobbing loudly. “All my friends are expecting me to bring the MRF bat and we decided to play with it. Now, everyone will laugh at me.”
Charlie’s father picked him up in his arms and rubbed his tear-filled cheeks.
“You tell them, to go and ask their parents, whether Virat and Sachin started playing with a MRF bat when they were of your age. If they still laugh at you, you will know they are not your friends. Your friends will stand by you and believe you.”
Charlie heard his father speak. He always believed what Mr. D’Souza said and he always did what his father told him. He did not want to argue anymore. He picked up his brand new cricket kit and arranged them at the corner of the room.
It was 11 o’clock in the morning. Despite the tormenting sun hovered over their heads, the young 5-7 year olds of Whitefield lane did not care about anything else than cricket. New terms were yet to start and they wanted to utilise each and every minutes of the day before they went back into carrying heavily loaded school bags and gulp in 10-lettered words that was somehow supposed to make them into better citizens of tomorrow.
Everyone had been anxiously waiting for Charlie that day. They waited for the brand new cricket bat with MRF written on it. Everyone wanted to touch it.
Charlie appeared with a huge bag behind him gleefully, out of the corner of the Whitefield lane. Everyone started cheering and loudly calling out his name. “Charlie, Charlie!” As if Charlie had won a tournament for them.
Even the 10-year-olds of the colony ran towards Charlie.
While cheers and demands of the new bat be made public started filling in, Charlie’s heart raced like a rocket. He was happy but his reputation was at stake too. He knew that despite having so many friends, there were enemies too, who were unhappy with the fact that Charlie, the 5-year-old had a MRF bat and not them.
Charlie slowly started taking out the wickets, bails, and the ball and finally came out the bat. There was a loud cheer, “Yeah!” and then everyone was quiet.
“Hey, this is no MRF bat! You cheat!” said a 7-year-old boy, who had desperately fought with his parents to gift him a MRF bat too. Charlie could see the grin and many others also laugh at his back and at his loss.
“When Virat and Sachin started playing, they also did not have a MRF bat! They earned it over the years! Go and ask your mom and dad!” Charlie said exactly what his father told him, but trying to sound convincing. However, he ended up sounding desperate.
The other kids started laughing. Charlie would break into tears any soon.
“Yeah, right! Virat and Sachin. You think you can buy us with that story? Say na, your father did not gift you one coz you don’t deserve! Loser!” said a 10-year-old, who tried to boss everyone at Whitefield lane and took away the ball, if he ever got out early.
Charlie’s eyes had just started to turn red, when another five-year-old came from behind and protested.
“Hey you, you think you are bigger than us, so you can say whatever you want? You know what? My brother plays at Shivaji Park and even he does not have a MRF bat! He also told me that you have to earn to be there where Sachin and Virat are. Stop being such a mean and get on with your game. Why are you wasting his birthday and our time?”
And then the boy turned towards everyone. “Did any one of you get a new cricket bat this birthday? Forget a bat, a whole new cricket set?” No nah! Then stop hurting him and let’s play with the new thing!”
In twos-threes, people started agreeing with this boy. Charlie’s face had turned from red to pink to red again.
The boys started dispersing. The 5-7 year olds, who played together, quickly collected the kit from Charlie and patted and wished him. Some of them even hugged. Charlie threw high-fives also.
The boy, who had fought for him, had started to place the wickets into the ground. Charlie walked up to the boy and said, “Thank you.”
The boy looked back and smiled. And then suddenly Charlie hugged him. The boy got startled and tried to get rid of him.
“Hey what’s your problem?” asked the boy.
“You fought for me, you are my friend. Only friends do that!” Charlie replied.
“Hey, buddy. I really appreciate all these but I just wanted to play. Manu’s bat is almost broken. So, don’t get all excited.”
And the boy turned and started putting the other wickets in place. Charlie did not care much about the reply. He knew that he found a new friend and he could see the boy trying to hide his face from Charlie and had blushed cheeks when Charlie called him his friend.
Charlie picked up the other three wickets and ran towards the other end and started putting them in place, as others came to help him.
The boy turned and saw Charlie laughing with others and he said under his breath, so that no one could, “Friends!” And let out a smile that denoted that a new friendship was born.