“Excuse me, ball please”

When i was a kid, i used to play cricket with my building friends in our compound or the in the next building. It was a ritual to play cricket morning and evening except during school days. During school it used to be either on weekends or during off days. Sometimes even during the afternoon if we had nothing better to do. Every summer this ritual was followed. Nothing stopped us apart from the people who shoo’ed us away if we made too much noise or broke a window or two. We were a group of almost 7 or 8 kids from 2 buildings. Whichever side of the narrow compound we found empty, we used a car tyre as the main stump and a piece of marble for the second, made the teams and started to play.

The rules were always the same. The only thing that came in between was the wall between the two buildings. If anyone hit the ball high or hard, there was a big chance that it would land up in the next building. We either called out to the passers by to give us the ball or sent one person from the batting team to get it as they were just sitting. 

As all of us grew up, we got busy with our lives. Board Exams, College, etc etc. For atleast 3-4 years or more, there was hardly any cricket played in the compound. No banter at all. It felt hollow living here. There always used to be so much commotion and all of a sudden it had all gone away. Even the elderly and the adults acknowledged the same. The same people who complained of us making noise and breaking windows were missing us. Time went on. 

The arguments over runs, wickets, no-balls, wide balls, run-outs, etc made all of it worthwhile. Today i miss those days and i hardly know about the whereabouts of those friends with whom i played apart from a few of them. These memories somehow got deposited in the very back of my mind.

But today, while returning from work, as I was entering my building, a kid from the next building asked ” Excuse me, ball please” while pointing towards the dirty tennis ball which was lying a few feet away from me. As i went to fetch the ball and throw it back to him, all those memories rushed back and i suddenly realised that there were so many times that i must have said the exact same thing to so many people who gladly returned the ball. As I threw the ball back, the kid gladly thanked me and went on with the game. I was once on the other side of the wall. 

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