Ache

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Last 1000 meters of the 5k run for males. Rolab, the state champion is leading, closely followed by the teen sensation Noku!

There is nothing fancy about running. All you have to do is lift your leg. The rest is all done for you. You lift your left leg, then it goes down on its own. Then give it some time to acknowledge that gravity is a bitch. Now the right leg- lift. It goes down. It’s all about fighting this urge to go down, which inevitably wins. Winning is however overrated; there is nothing new about wanting to win. But to keep losing is an art in itself. Again, there’s nothing fancy about losing per se, except when done in succession. Then it has a charm of its own. It always makes sense losing for love. Or revolution. Those losses border on pleasure almost. I digress.

800 meters left in this race. Nothing has changed upfront on the track, Noku shadowing Rolab like a bloodhound on trail!

It is all about man’s inability to fly. As a thin, dark, poor and inevitably malnourished lad of fifteen, running became my lifeline. This was a time when letters meant a lot to people. Handwritten letters filled with words of love. Telegrams were too swift, too short and too troublesome. The post had personality. I was a postman’s son, his assistant and on his untimely death, an unenthusiastic substitute. I hated delivering letters, and it didn’t pay me enough. I hated that I never received one. I was the oyster, whose pearls got stolen. I felt bad, sad. I was young. A sweet summer child. Not anymore.

500 meters left to go. Tiring legs, sweat pouring down as though from pipes. Rolab still leads… Noku playing second fiddle… he looks too comfortable for the last minutes of a long race!

But the pangs of hunger were always very real. Letters alone couldn’t get me food. Not enough anyway. So I started delivering milk in the evenings. It wasn’t tough. The farmers were real sweet darlings. As long as you overlooked the occasional addition of water. It was all sunshine and rainbows, till the Government decided to cut down the staff in the Post Master’s office. Now they needed just one postman, in place of three. And ‘the one’ would get twice the salary. The Government was smart. That’s probably why it became the Government in the first place. But this did put me in a spot of bother. Of the three of us, Haku, the oldest friend of my dad, was almost ready to retire and take his well-earned pension. Misa, the second, though, was a prick. To complicate matters, he sold his wife’s ornaments and bought a cycle. I was really not into marriages, so I didn’t have a wife, and hence no ornaments to sell. Not that I regret it.

This left with me no choice, but to deliver letters faster than Misa, the two wheeled demon. I chose to run. And run I did. All morning I would run and finish off the letters. All evening I would run and deliver the milk. Misa, soon decided to sell his cycle. I loved the bee stung look on his face.

“200 meters more… Rolab seems to be struggling in the heat but, the champion that he is, has found unfathomable strengths to carry on and lead. Noku though seems to be in no hurry…”

All that is history now, rags to riches is such a cliche. I am not rich. Yet. But I am better than before. I wear my country’s colors. I don’t run barefoot anymore. In fact, people want to pay for my footwear. If I let them, they’ll sew their initials in my briefs. Bloody bourgeoisie. But I don’t give a damn. For me it is not about the gold. It is not about the podiums. It’s all about that look on their faces. When a thin, dark, poor and impoverished monkey of a man, beats their icons at their own Meccas. The fancier their names, the shinier their labels: the faster I run past them. That bee stung look. I can feel my lungs burn, gasp, and sputter at times. I know they feel it too. Knives are plunging into my calves, or so it seems. I can’t feel my knees. I can’t feel anything now. But I know they feel it too. But they can’t see in on me. I won’t let them. I make them sell short and wither and die. I am beyond everything.

It’s time to run.

“Rolab is still on the lead folks as we pass into the last 50 meters of… AND NOKU BOLTS OFF. Two strides and … HE’S LEVEL. He is WITH ROLAB now. Did he just… TURN AND SMILE?  The struggle is real, Rolab seems to drift off. Noku is running the race of his life, and has probably mistaken this to be sprint event. He just finishes 20 meters ahead of …”

Rolab has been stung by the bee.

 

–  Sr Ja [05/11/2017]

 

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