When my cousin Talha's uncle came to visit and brought about a dozen tennis balls for him; his joy knew no bounds. And, it was instantly decided that we should play a game of cricket. Cricket is said to be gentlemen's game. Talha hardly qualified, if we are to judge by that strict standard. Because, being just 4 ½ years old, the prospects of manhood for him were still years away. Besides, all those who knew him, unanimously agreed that he was the worst tempered child within at least a hundred miles. And, if he had any gentility or nobleness about himself, he had successfully managed to keep it hidden to this day.
Despite all that, we decided to play a game of cricket nevertheless. Partly, because all the kids wanted to play it so badly; and partly because I couldn't spend all my day sleeping and idling away (when I was actually supposed to be preparing for my final exams) no matter how hard I tried. A game of cricket had never appeared to be more alluring than at this particular time. Now arose the need for a "venue" to play. Talha's idea to use the porch as the pitch was rejected instantaneously. The only other choice was to play on the rooftop; this proposal was readily accepted, there being no other alternative left. Talha took it upon himself to comment as well as play.
There were only four players all in all, this did not even comprise even one side, but this party of four was divided into two teams. My team included Saba besides me, on the other side were Talha and his sister Aleena; two years old Amana was our sole spectator, who somehow had gotten it into her head that it was required of her to run across the pitch every now and then, just when a ball was about to be delivered. So, most of our energy was spent at keeping the field clear of her or vice versa.
Our side was to bat first; Talha very earnestly measured the steps, tried his best to imitate Shoaib Akhtar and delivered a very wide ball, which in his own opinion was "a very nice delivery". On the very next delivery I hit the ball so hard that it landed on the rooftop of our immediate neighbours. "oh! Never mind" said Talha, much to our surprise, in ordinary circumstances he would have raised such a hue and cry at this incident. Particularly Aleena looked at him with such a look of astonishment that cannot be described merely in words. "Perhaps, it is the heat which has affected his brain, it is very hot today, you know" whispered Aleena.
After playing as poorly, as cricket can possibly be played our "whole" team was out at the glorious score of 21. Whenever Talha was at the non-batting end, he would not only constantly pass "inflammatory" remarks at Aleena's batting ability, but every now and then completely forgot that he was supposed to bat and not act as a fielder; which he kept forgetting and after every delivery ran after the ball to save runs for us much to the disconcertion of his partner; and once he almost caught poor Aleena out. Who in her turn vented out her anger at Amana, who innocently enough always cheered when she was not supposed to do so.
After about an hour or so when most of the balls had been equally distributed amongst the neighboring rooftops, we decide to end this day's game. "Will we resume the game tomorrow?" asked Aleena hopefully. "Oh! I don't know" I said doubtfully, wondering how many more balls Talha could possibly lose before his patience would wear down. So far, surprisingly enough, he always cheerily told us not to mind it whenever he lost a ball.
Almost ten days later, Talha had only one ball left. By now, he had absolutely refused to play with us. These days his temper had not only worsened, but he always declared philosophically that "all girls were fools" and such chauvinistic remarks, which had no effect on any of us, and thus offering little consolation to him. Funnily enough, the last ball was torn in the middle, and thus had little value if any at all.
Thus, it continued, until Khurram came from Faisalabad, where he worked in a textile company. Somehow, Talha was finally persuaded to bring his "new ball", as he liked to call his last ball. "You had better be careful, already these girls have caused a great loss to me" he warned. Almost every shot Khurram played landed straight in the colony, and Talha had to run downstairs and out to retrieve it. "amazing isn't it, that the worst ball of all has not disappeared at all!" exclaimed Saba. No sooner had she said it, when Khurram smashed the ball away so hard, as it disappeared into the neighboring rooftop, absolutely torn into two pieces, a pitiful cry pierced our ears, "Oh! My new ball."