To what lengths would you go to be accepted in a group? The boy in this story finds himself being made welcome by the group he wants to join, completely by accident. This story was published in Young World, the children’s pages of The Hindu.
Perhaps, thought Rohan hopefully, today the wicket keeper would actually let a ball fall. Then he could catch it and be invited to join the game of cricket.
From his first day in the new flat Rohan had noticed the group of older boys playing cricket and longed to join them. For two days now he had been hanging around, hoping he would be allowed to play with them. But the boys hadn’t even noticed him. Perhaps, thought Rohan optimistically, today was the day.
Lost in pleasant thoughts Rohan didn’t see the batsman hit the ball, or notice it soar high. He missed seeing the wicket keeper try to catch it. The first he knew of any of this was when something hard rammed into him, sending him sprawling.
When Rohan saw the mess of scratches on his knee and felt the sharp pain, he felt tears pool in his eyes. He ran home before he could embarrass himself.
“What happened?” Amma wanted to know. “Just some scratches!” Rohan said as airily as he could. Amma took one look at his face and in silence washed the wound before applying some cream on it. All those scratches for nothing, Rohan thought bitterly. He hadn’t even played with those boys and instead had come home with injuries. A dejected Rohan settled down to watching TV, determined to forget his dreams of playing with the group downstairs.
Two days later he finally went out, taking care to keep his head turned away as he walked up the street. “Hey!” someone called. Rohan turned to see a boy from the cricket game. “Are you okay?” the boy asked. “Yes,” Rohan said, determined not to let anyone know how badly those scratches had hurt him, “It was nothing — the tiniest scratch!”
“The tiniest scratch, huh?” the boy echoed. When the other boys walked up he said, “The kid says he only had the tiniest scratch!” Rohan wondered if the boy was making fun of him. The other boys were repeating, “The tiniest scratch!” in varied tones of surprise, amazement and amusement and Rohan saw all of them glance at his knee where the thick bandage gave lie to his words.
“He is a real sport!” one of the boys said, “To call those scratches tiny!” “Yes,” another agreed “I saw his knee that day – it must have been painful!”
The boy who had first spoken to Rohan clapped him on the shoulder and said, “So, if your tiny scratch isn’t hurting you, why don’t you play with us?”
Play with them? Rohan wondered if he had heard right. But the encouraging smiles he saw reassured him. He had heard it right — the boys wanted him to play with them. “Of course,” he beamed, “I’ll play with you!”
“You and that tiniest scratch of yours!” his new friends said. As he took his place to bat, Rohan thanked his stars and that tiny scratch of his – for giving him a wonderful opportunity.