I feel surprised at how I could have uttered these words then. It was like stating, while standing under the sun, that it was night. Both of us had seen the billet strike the tipper with a bang; but Gaya accepted that I was right.
"Yes, it must have struck the brick. It would not have made such a loud sound had it struck the stick."
I continued with striking the billet. But after cheating Gaya so openly, I felt a pity for him for his simplicity. So when the billet struck the tipper for the third time, I generously relinquished my turn at striking and handed over the tipper to Gaya.
"It has become dark, brother. Let's continue the game tomorrow," Gaya said.
I thought tomorrow would be a long day, and Gaya could make me chase the billet all through the day. It would be better to end the matter today rather than tomorrow.
"Oh no, it is quite bright still. Let's continue, and you complete your turn at striking," I said.
"You will find it difficult to throw the billet."
Gaya started his turn. He had no practice. He tried to strike the billet but missed twice. Within a minute he had lost his turn.
I exhibited my nobleness. "Have another try; you missed in your very first attempt."
"No brother, it has become very dark."
"You have lost your skill. Don't you play nowadays?"
"I don't find the time to play, brother."
We sat in the car, and reached the village even as lamps were being lighted in the houses. On the way Gaya informed me that a game of tip-cat had been organised tomorrow, and all the veteran players would be playing. "Will you come?" he asked me. "Come whenever you find the time."
I promised to come in the evening. The next day I went to watch the game. There were a number of teams with each team consisting of ten players. Some of the players were my childhood friends; but most of them were youngsters whom I did not recognise. The match started, and I sat in my car watching the proceedings. Today Gaya surprised me with his skills. When he struck the billet, it soared to the sky. There were no signs of hesitation, diffidence or lack of confidence which he had shown yesterday. The skill that he had acquired as a boy had ripened with age. Had he displayed the same skill yesterday, I would surely have broken down sobbing.
One of the opponent team members tried to cheat. He claimed he had caught the billet in flight. Gaya was sure that the billet had first hit the ground and bounced before the player had caught it. Both of them had a good argument over the matter and the youngster finally retracted scared by Gaya's belligerent attitude. If the youngster had not backed off I am sure there would have been a fight.
I was not playing myself; but the game provided me with the enjoyment of my childhood days. I realised that Gaya had not played with me yesterday; he had only pretended to play. He had considered me as a person to be pitied. I had cheated, but he did not get angry because he was not really playing; he had been toying with me, he had made the pretence merely to respect my wishes. He had not wanted to make a mince-meat of me. I am an officer, and this officialdom has created a wall between Gaya and me. I can, as an officer, demand obedience and respect but never comradeship. As a boy I was his equal; there had been no gulf between Gaya and me then. But as an officer I can evoke only his sympathies. He does not consider me as his equal; I have become very small.