The spirits were high at the Wanderer’s stadium. India Vs South Africa, finals of the Honda Cup. India were 256/6, struggling to get to the total 262 with two balls remaining. Dinu Rathore, the Indian all-rounder was at 47 playing resplendently. Deepak Patnakar, the fresh blood to the Indian team, was at the non-striker’s end, eagerly awaiting his maiden one-day international fifty. The young wicket-keeper was determined to get that, and, a win for his team. He was playing good, with 49 runs in just 30 balls and 2 stumpings in the previous session.
Dinu Rathore was waiting for the ball, and it came in full swing, he struck hard and the ball went hurtling, he called for a run, then a second, and then, a third, almost impossible run, but Deepak readily obeyed, he didn’t care about his fifty anymore, all it mattered was the win. He was half-way through, but Dinu was unmoved, for the South-African star fielder Mark Fletcher had already stopped the running ball. Dinu wanted to get his 38th fifty in style; he was not going to get out saving this teeny boy. No, not Dinu. Deepak ran back, but the red ball struck the stumps and he was out, out for 49.
He was shocked by Dinu’s behaviour; Deepak knew he could’ve got there if he had tried his best to. He made his way to the pavilion, disheartened.
Shiv Subramaniam came in for the last ball at the non-striker’s end. 1 ball and 4 runs, the emotions were running wild, the minority Indian crowd was heard well above the South Africans. “Four!! Four!! We want four!!” the South-African bowler came running, “Go, Dinu, go!!” the bowler released the ball “Dinu! Dinu!” Dinu struck it “Four!! Four!!” and four it was! India won the match!! The crowd went berserk. Dinu was named man of the match for his splendid all-round performance. He was hero for the crowd, but not for Deepak. He knew he could’ve got the 3 runs for his team, if only he had stayed on, and, he would’ve reached his fifty.
But, Deepak didn’t know Dinu well. The others did, and a good thing they did too because Dinu wasn’t a person to be crossed.
Dinu was born in a respectably good family who took care of all his basic needs, but he was never content. He always wanted more and his one and only passion was cricket. He had to battle his way through to get to the team. The battle had made him strong, and, head-strong. All it mattered to him was the cricket pitch, victory in the game, his victory in the pitch. The game was everything for him; he held no respect for any values or for the people. He never cared about that pitch, which was even grassier, full of turners and unexpected twists than the cricket pitch, the pitch called Life. He was nonchalant and selfish. He never played charity matches, because he knew ‘money matters’ and only that mattered. The team was playing a lot of charity matches lately, because in South-Africa, an epidemic had spread, and people were struggling to find places in the hospital, leave alone, money for treatment.
But Dinu never cared who wants to help filthy, rotting ailing people when there were beautiful things to be seen and done, with his money!
They had a week off after the one-dayers before the test match. The team was playing charity matches, but Dinu was out in the country enjoying himself - South African food, South African countryside, and South African girls.
There was a warm-up match on Thursday with the A team of the hosts, before the 1st test on Saturday. Dinu was opening then, as he always did, in such matches and the South-African speedster Nako Kamata was bowling the first over. Dinu was facing the ball, and unexpectedly, Kamata’s deadly in swinger struck him hard right above the knee as he moved to avoid the ball. He was knocked down and was rushed to the hospital immediately.
Dinu was told to be under rest for 2 months, and he was not supposed to travel at least for a month, which also meant no cricket of course. Dinu was stuck in South Africa without anything to do. He was mad with rage, shouting at everyone who came his way. He was almost psychologically depressed. He was not going to play the first 3 test matches against the hosts.
The once beautiful South Africa suddenly seemed a desert to him. He was kept along with the other patients in the hospital; he couldn’t get a special place, because everywhere else was full- the epidemic. South Africa had good doctors, but no good rooms to occupy, for the moment. To Dinu, it was torturous. Watching the patients move about covered with band-aids, and nurses with masks on, the familiar hospital stink and moreover, not able to watch the matches even on TV. The daily newspaper irritated him and he was not even able to bang his legs in frustration. He became more and more animal-like.
A never-ending week passed away. The only intriguing happening to think over was this little black child. Dinu didn’t know who she was nor did he want to. But he was intrigued by her behaviour, and what she was doing in the hospital. Dinu first saw her adjusting his blanket, a filthy ragged creature with hair sticking onto ends, like Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Maybe she was one such Topsy. She had smiled at him, an innocent smile, when she saw he was awake, but Dinu didn’t need such acquaintances, he had shooed her away. Her serenity had never left her face, she went as she had come, silently.
Dinu started seeing her everyday then, hurrying around swiftly, passing medicines and adjusting the beds of the sick and helping them. Her face showed no signs of hatred or indifference towards anything. She was there day and night, and day after day, Dinu kept wondering what brought this little kid into this hell hole. One day, his curiousity got the better out of him; and he asked the nurse who came to tend him. “Nurse…” “Yes, Mr. Rathore!” said she, being obviously pleased at being addressed by the famous cricketer. “Well, that girl, over there. Who is she?” “Oh, her!” the nurse went back to her old drawl, “That’s Tiko”. “Tiko? Where does she live?” “Here” “Here! But doesn’t she have a home? Family?” Rathore looked up, but the nurse was already down the corridor.
Rathore couldn’t sleep well that day, and he knew it was not only because of his pain.
The next day, Rathore saw Tiko coming down to the ward. She was cleaning the bed next to him. Rathore said tentatively, “Tiko?”
“Sir called Tiko? Sir called me?” She sounded really excited.
“Yeah, hi! How do you do? “Rathore Sir asked Tiko how Tiko is. Tiko tells grand-children this, Sir. Tiko tells”, she said in broken English.
He smiled at her innocence. “So, you know who I am?”
“Know! Tiko knows everything about you, Sir. Tiko is a big fan of you. Tiko watches cricket when she has time”.
“So, what do you do here, Tiko?”
“Tiko works here, in hospital, Sir.”
“Work! Here?? Don’t you have a home?”
“This is Tiko’s home. Tiko lived here all her life”
“Where are your parents? Don’t you have a family?”
“Tiko’s daddy- slave. Died. Mummy sold. No brothers, no sisters. All sold or dead. Tiko doesn’t know.” The small eyes suddenly flooded with tears, but just for a moment. “Tiko has work, Sir. That lady needs Tiko help”. She showed a lady who was down with the epidemic, she was flushed with fever. “Tiko sees Sir later, Tiko is honoured”. She smiled her usual smile and ran away.
Dinu looked at her with awe. The thought of mourning a lost family is painful, but not knowing whether her family was lost or not, was really excruciating. And still, there she was, smiling and tending to the people, who were looked down upon with great dislike. For the first time, Dinu realized that he had never lost a loved one. Or was he too busy with his game, he didn’t even realize the losses he had suffered? For the second consecutive day, Dinu didn’t sleep well.
The next day, Tiko came up bringing his medicines. He smiled at her.
“Tiko, how often do you bathe?”
“Once in a week, Sir”
He shrugged. “Nurse asked you, Sir, whether you want to walk today with Tiko’s help?” She sounded hopeful.
“Well, Tiko…” he said, looking at her rags, “Sir says yes, if Tiko washes and dresses herself properly, and combs her beautiful hair well”.
Her smile waned. “Tiko doesn’t have money for dress, Sir and no time to dress”
“Don’t they pay you here, Tiko?”
“Yes, Sir. Food and 5 rands a month”
“5 rands!!!” That was the money with which he paid tips to the waiters.
“Yes, Sir.” She smiled.
“Well, if I give you money Tiko, will you dress yourself up well?”
“No, no, Sir. Tiko doesn’t take money, from anybody.
“But this is my command Tiko. You must do it.” He took some money from his wallet and gave it to her.
“Thank you, Sir. You are so kind.” She said, and ran away. Dinu felt a happiness creep over him, but he didn’t know what it was.
The next day, Tiko took Dinu out for a walk. She showed all her friends, all the people who were in the beds. “They are my only friends, Sir. So they change.” She laughed.
“This is Tikilo. His hands and legs not working”. She showed a 5 year old boy. “You mean, he is paralyzed?” “No, Sir. Tikilo’s hands, legs not working”. She signaled his hands and legs which were down like logs. Dinu shuddered. “That’s what I meant”, he said. Tikilo smiled at him. Dinu looked at him down, thought of his rage at not being able to move his limbs for some months, and felt ashamed, to the core.
“Tzu la Rathore creva?”, Tiko asked a lady next to him. She nodded. “La! Sir, Llosu knows you too! You are so famous and you, my friend.” She smiled heartily. “Can’t she talk?” Dinu asked.
“Talk? No talk, Sir. Llosu lost talk and eyes in fever”. He looked down at her closely; her eyes had no light in them. He thought to himself, “She can’t see me, or the beautiful sea and the beautiful countryside, or this little kid who is an Angel. And I, I was shouting at everyone for not being able to watch TV.” Suddenly he was brought back to the present, Tiko was looking at him. He smiled and they walked down to meet Tiko’s other “friends”.
By the end of his walk, Dinu was feeling dizzy, not because of the physical pain, but because of the mental agony he was going through. He felt contaminated, contaminated with power, position and money. He finally began to realize there was more to life than just the cricket pitch. Life itself was one such pitch- but no captain can ask the grounds men to make it to suit his team’s needs. No, it was made by one grounds man- God. And only the best players, who are capable of playing on any pitch, could survive to become known, to be men-of-the-match.
Dinu recovered soon to the doctors’ amazement. But what was even more amazing to his team-mates was, the first match he played after his recovery, was a charity match. All proceeds to the hospital. He wanted to adopt Tiko, but she refused. “Tiko’s friends need her”, she said, and ran away. But she came back. “Can I have Sir’s autograph?” Dinu smiled and wrote down, “To my Angel, who resurrected me. With Thanks, Rathore”.
The Rathore charity trust became a known organization for generous help to all kinds of helpless people. After his death, Dinu Rathore became known not only for his outstanding achievements on the cricket pitch, but also for his achievements as a human being in bringing smiles to millions of faces, for his achievements in the pitch called life.