Neelesh Inamdar and their work
Born and brought up in the Mumbai suburbs, relocated from a school run by Indians to one run by Catholic priests, books found me when I was just 7.
I grew up on the streets of London, holding the hands of Dickens, Conan Doyle, and a host of classic English authors whilst looking at Mumbai gullies from my window. It’s Wren & Martin English for me, and replacing s’s with z’s while writing is unthinkable, though I don’t mind them while reading.
I write, mostly for myself, and sometimes get published.
Neelesh Inamdar’s work can also be found here:
Vinod gripped the bat and turned his head to the bowler. It was Naman, called Nemesis by his team mates. Even as he watched, Naman morphed into a fox, standing on its hind legs, spinning the ball with his paws. It was the first time Vinod had seen a fox chewing gum.
He shook his head. He did not want to lose his concentration. He drew on all his mental strength and focused.
The ball spun as it rose in the air and fell back into Naman’s foxy fingers. To Vinod’s eyes even the ball looked ferocious.
Vinod and Naman had a checkered history. Head to head, they had played eighteen matches, and in eight of them Naman had got the better of him.
“Will he get me this time?” Vinod undid his stance and turned his back on Naman.
“Shit,” he said to himself, “I have to get this right. I just have to, for my father’s sake. For the man who had fought with almost everyone who told him, ‘You are ruining your son’s life . Stop allowing him to play around, get him to study for a stable career.’ “
Vinod sensed the players waiting for him to return to the crease. He looked at Suresh, the non-striker. Suresh stood outside his crease, but the toe of his bat rested inside. Vinod knew Suresh was ready to run the moment he hit the ball. They needed four off this ball, which was the last of the match, and everyone knew it. Anything less than four, and they would be out of the tournament.
Vinod took his stance, ready to face Naman. He was at the centre of a demon circle. Five demons inside the 30 yards, four outside, watchfully alert, waiting to devour the ball if it came near them. Anything to stop the ball from reaching the boundary.
He blinked and opened his eyes, and the cricket field returned to normal with humans instead of foxes and wolves and demons.
He shook off the tension which had made him see things and weighed his options. Either he could drive between two fielders, or loft it above them. Somehow, he had to get the ball to the boundary. There was no room for a mistake.
But before Naman could start his run-up, his captain came running. They exchanged a few words, surveyed the field and the captain gestured to the mid-on and mid-off fielders to move half-way between the pitch and the boundary. Vinod observed the fielding changes.
The captain went to point, and Vinod settled to face Naman.
He felt an eerie presence beside him.
It was the Fixer.
A true show off, cavorting his Roberto Cavalli jeans, Bulgari sunglasses and Versace shoes at every match venue. He knew every cricketer who mattered, even players who didn’t matter knew him. Vinod had seen many of his contemporaries shift gears from sedans to SUVs and one-bedroom homes to penthouses, courtesy the Fixer.
Grinning, the Fixer ruffled a bundle of notes in Vinod’s face. Through the helmet, his eerie voice unnerved Vinod.
“Lose,” his grinning mouth said. “Save your father’s life.”
For a long time, Vinod had refused to be roped in by the temptation. Even today he… but something else crossed his vision.
His father. Lying on a hospital bed, tubes flowing from his body into machines which display frequencies of death and life, and the gap between them.
“Win, even if I have to die,” his father said, “Be true to your love, my son.”
Vinod closed his eyes to end the nightmare.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the ball travelling with Naman who was into his stride. Naman’s rising hand sent Vinod’s brain into overdrive.
What was he going to bowl? The first ball had been outside off, spinning in, the second was on middle, straight. The next was on off, going in, and the next outside off, going in. Naman was going to bowl this one on middle and straight.
An epiphanous moment – the reason for pulling up mid-on and mid-off.
The ball left Naman’s hand…
A voice in his head shouted, “Forget the Fixer, Vinod. You must win. Don’t let the ball bounce. If it does, you’re dead.”
Vinod strode forward, picked up the ball on the full toss and lofted it over Naman’s head. The whole ground watched the ball sail over Naman’s head.
Vinod had guessed Naman’s line but not the speed. Normally that shot would have taken the ball over the ropes but Naman had released it softly, forcing Vinod into the shot early.
The ball landed just beyond the reach of mid-off. Vinod had started running along with the shot and had already completed a run and turned for the second. Both batsmen ran like leopards.
The ball rolled towards the boundary. The chasing mid off fielder lunged at it, diving in a desperate attempt to stop it, and managed to push it away from the ropes with his palm.
Vinod and Suresh finished their third run. This was no time to stop and see where the ball was. Vinod started running for the winning run. Suresh hesitated. He didn’t take off until Vinod screamed at him.
Meanwhile, the fielder from mid-on, grabbed the ball that mid-off had pushed away. He threw it to the wicket-keeper’s end. There were yells of anguished “Nooooo…” from Naman and his captain.
He should have thrown at Suresh’s end, but he threw the ball to the keeper, intending to get Vinod out. An untimely decision but lucky for Vinod. Suresh was still yards away from the non-striker’s crease while Vinod had already reached home, safe. Vinod turned back to see Suresh diving to touch the crease.
The stadium rose in applause.
Vinod took off his helmet and raised his bat towards the pavilion. Suresh ran up to congratulate him. The rest of the team burst into the ground and lifted him on their shoulders.
Vinod closed his eyes and whispered, “I’m sorry, Dad.”
He imagined his dad smile and raise his fingers in a V.