The summer of ’94, cruel though it was, was a magical one. Our mango tree, which hadn’t borne fruit in five years, was re-acquainted with the thirst for life, for immortality. Our courtyard was thick with the sticky-sweet scent of her yearning, her branches bustling once again with activity, red ants and bees and crows visiting once more to convey their regards and partake of the festivities. Unbeknownst to her, a few feet away, summer had stirred similar desires in Rita’s young guava tree who now peeked nosily over their wall and into our make-shift cricket pitch, winking knowingly at the sudden spring in our steps.
For it wasn’t just the trees and the ants, and the birds and the bees, that summer had chosen to enchant with its ways. Ramesh and I, in our own ways, were unwitting participants in the game of life. It was neither spoken of, nor quietly acknowledged, mainly because we weren’t entirely certain what ‘it’ was. But it was felt when Ramesh theatrically ran his hand through his hair after bowling a particularly good delivery, or when I raised my bat skywards after hitting a boundary. We were at that age when we could still openly take delight in imitation of our heroes (not just their motives, but their gestures, their mannerisms), and we were all the protagonists of our own mind-movies. Rita too, probably. We weren’t societally obliged to feign cool indifference or intellectually programmed to spew cynicism just yet. Those years were on their way. In the summer of ’94, we were content to be led, and to follow. We knew our heroes, and we knew what beverages they preferred, what cars they drove and what hair conditioner they used, and we wanted what we knew because what we knew was happiness.We didn’t know why we fought over whose team Rita would play on, though she almost always cost her team the game. We didn’t know why we let her bowl and bat more than any of us ever did though she was patently terrible at all aspects of the game. We didn’t know why we were so much more competitive when Rita was around. I didn’t know why I boasted continuously about cricket camp to her though I dreaded the thought of attending it. We did know though that we wanted her around, and what we knew was happiness.