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Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Heart of a Goof

Disclaimer: This is the 4th in the series of 'Cinthol's Alive is Awesome Campaign'. This post is dedicated to the literary genius that was PG Wodehouse and it's an attempt to present the story as the man did in his book , 'The Heart of a Goof'. A lovely book, you should read it sometime.


I watched them, the two as they came into the pub, laughing and holding hands just as all those who are mad in love do.  He cracked a small joke, and she laughed again, almost resting her forehead on his shoulder. Dear puppy love.

“They weren’t always like that” a voice suggested from a somewhat south westerly direction.
 “They weren’t?” I questioned turning obediently to my south west and facing a rather venerable looking gentleman.

“She wouldn’t even as much as look at Robert once upon a time.  But err why don’t you hop over to my table, son, and I’ll tell you the tale right from the beginning?” said he, and his eyes shone, as he contemplated the various angles and dash he would add to the story, to impress his listener. 
“I should?” It was more a question to myself, than to him.

“But of course, one must always spread the tale of love”, he cooed.
“I suppose it wouldn’t be alright if we could do this spreading business tomorrow”, I was quite desperate now, but it didn’t look good for me.  “I have to be in some place in fifteen minutes.”
“It’ll but be over in a moment, done with and sent to the cleaners in a jiffy, perhaps even an iffy.”
“An iffy?”
“A small jiffy. Now come, be a sport.”

You can’t say no to a man who says he’ll end his story in an iffy and so I journeyed from my table to his, and sat down, feeling  as bright as a man who had just been condemned to the gallows.  He raised his cup of coffee to his lips and dramatically swallowed all that remained inside.  And then, he commenced on the tale of Robert Pinto, coffee droplets sitting rich on his mustache.

As a sixteen year old, Robert Pinto was just a good student. He could have had been an ace, but then they’d have to remove the first eighteen position holders of his class. He liked to draw, but not in art class, only in the back of his notebook.  He liked to sing, but when he did, it was akin to the sound that an ostrich mother makes during childbirth.

Not that he was much bothered by the lack of any skill in the aforementioned fields. Robert was at heart, a cricketer. He loved the game so much that every time his mother asked him to get dressed, he would rush up to him room and come out in his whites. That she sent him right back and forced him to change just tells us that not everyone is blessed with good taste like Robert.  When his family would talk of the bible, and how life started with Adam and Eve at Eden, he would get transported not to that orchard of poisonous apples, but to the delectable field in Kolkata, manicured and green. So strong was his imagination that he believed he could smell the fresh paint on the stadium chairs but that might as well have been the smell of potatoes that his mother had just dumped onto his plate.  That Robert loved cricket, nobody could doubt.

But there were two things bothering him that day. Lisa Mathew, and the lack of any batting form. While the latter is the devil that creeps into every batsman’s game at some point or time or the other and renders them mad till that day when they hit that perfect cover drive, Lisa was altogether a different proposition.

 Officially, she was just the prettiest girl in Robert’s school and the various profound lists drawn up by boys, such as the ‘Top Ten beautiful girls in our class’, would vouch for that. But what is math, when we can put it in words. Lisa was, and we must draw a deep breath when we mention her name, as lovely as lovely could possibly be. She could have easily been a princess, but only if her father was a king instead of an accountant. When she walked into the classroom, boys were ready to happily lie down on the floor only so that her feet wouldn’t have to touch the dirty earth. They would have readily fed her lunch from their tiffin boxes every day of the year and all years to come, if only they did not have to run out and play cricket during break.

And dear Robert, well he loved Lisa with everything in his heart. Loved her more than he loved himself, more than he loved the whole world, and almost half as much as he loved his bat.

“Half as much as his bat? That’s huge. He must have loved her a lot” I interrupted. The old man nodded, and continued.

Well, Robert chose well, especially because Lisa knew the difference between third man and square drive. Her father had been a wicketkeeper for his university and little Lisa had picked up the game from those genes. She wasn’t just pretty, she was the best batswoman in the school. As I said, Robert had good taste.

 “So what was the problem” I said, with the impatience of a man who cannot wait for the suspense to unfold. The old man would have smiled at that, but he had just brushed his mustache and having spotted those drops of coffee now on his shirt, he just shook his head.

The problem? Well, while Robert saw her face in the bedroom ceiling when he slept, saw her in the bathroom mirror when he brushed and the back pages of his notebook when he drew, Lisa was quite unaware of the power she exerted on our fellow.  She would not have even known of his existence, had he not been part of the school cricket team.  Not that she cared for the boy’s team much, her own team kept her busy, but the men had just won the finals of the school competition and Naveen Silva had become the talk of the town.

“Naveen Silva?

“The boy’s team captain. The most good looking boy in school and probably the whole town. His was the first boy voice to break in class when they were in seventh grade. His hair was wavy and smooth like a film star’s. In comparison, Robert’s hair felt like burnt hay.

“Burnt hay, eh?” I suddenly felt sad for Robert.

“It gets worse. Naveen had just scored a hundred in the finals, and had immediately become the most eligible bachelor in school.  Nobody cared that they dropped three catches of him. Three. Can you believe that?” the old man was getting quite upset now.

“Yes, you can’t win a game if you drop someone thrice. Urm anyway, what happened then?”

Well, the entire batch decided to go out over the weekend to celebrate. A camping trip besides a river.

When they reached there, there was music and food, tents and bornfires.  Lisa sat with Naveen and he told her how he had told the bowler he would hit him for a six straight down the ground, and he had. Lisa gushed, and Naveen said she was pretty. Everyone was happy, except for Robert.

“Yes, it feels terrible when you like someone and they are busy occupied liking someone else”

Not just that, he was upset about getting out on zero, too. Between you and me, I do not know what upset him more, the girl or the dismissal, but for his sake I hope it was his batting.  He got out on a full toss, you know.

“What happened then?”

They all sat near the river,  some kicking the water with their feet, some splashing water on others.  And then came Naveen, taking off his shirt and entering the water, his body glistening. Spotting Lisa on a rock, he flexed his muscles a little more and she smiled. “Pass me the soap will you?” he ordered one of this cronies and they passed it to him obediently.

“Don’t throw the wrapper in the river” came a cry. It was Lisa. Naveen just laughed and having chucked the package, continued with his bath.  Neither did he look too bothered when Lisa icily told him that what he had done was not very environment friendly.

"Not cricket, I should say", I was quite peeved at this Silva fellow's behaviour.

It is during these same moments that Robert had entered the water, hoping the water would take away some of his sadness. Seeing Lisa perturbed in the manner she was, he scanned the water for the packet. There it was, that yellow thing, floating away as fast as it could. But what can a packet do, when its at battle with a man in love. In swift, quick strokes Robert chased  it and having captured it, sped back to shore.

“You got that back because I said so?” Lisa said, and I am not sure if she was more moved or shocked or even pleased for the matter.  When Robert nodded, she felt this strange knot in her stomach. Was it because he smelt nice or was it something more.  Couldn’t be his hair, why did it look like hay. Nice hay, but.  Lisa could not quite understand why she was feeling the way she was.

With my experience in these matters, son, I think she felt special because she could not remember the last time someone had done something so selflessly for her.  Of course if you don’t count Hrishikesh Kanitkar hitting that last ball boundary to get India a win over Pakistan. But that joy she had had to share with the whole country, while this was hers, hers alone. In a movement that shocked Robert, the school and the sparrow that was cooing on the tree above, she stepped forward and gave Robert a big hug, and the packet fell out of his hand again. Thankfully, not into the water. Cinthol it was, I remember, because I was watching the Alive is Awesome Campaign the other day, and Robert said that if not for that, things could have been so different.

“You smell nice and lemony” she said to him, when they eventually stopped hugging. 

“Haha, and then?” I asked.

Well, they have been together ever since.  And Robert, he never has missed hitting a full toss ball again. 


You can read the other parts of the "Cinthol AIA campaign here,

A Night Adventure with a Croatian Backpacker

The Merry Adventures of Hector Narayanan

An Andamanese Affair