For those who have missed the first part, find the link below:
Chapter One: Shin and Shai
Sandeep’s eyes locked with his opponent in the taekwondo battle ring. A complete outcast to his physique, the giant, six and a half feet tall, 14 year old kid was tormenting Sandeep’s confidence bit by bit. Both of them poised and in attacking positions, no one moved an inch. Sandeep parched through the eyes of the big man in making – there were no traces of fear, no mercy is what his eyes echoed. Sandeep, a champion in this game had never come across such opponent in ages. His toughest opponent ever were three black belts whom he had fought during one of those practice fights in his club – a place where he had trained hard to get to the national championship.
He gained reputation as he spent time in the battle ring; his fighting techniques became hot topic in his club with everyone – new or old to this sport chipping in with their views. Nonetheless the under 15 national championship became a real test of his skills. There were lots of things that Sandeep realised should be unearthed to win this battle. His opponent was no ordinary coeval, three times national champion who had outdone many of his counterparts previously, Aushotosh, stood tall and inanimated awaiting Sandeep’s next move. There was a buzz around the fighting arena with crowds rooting for both – mostly for Sandeep as they had observed him for the last 17 matches; he had nine knock outs under his belt out of those 17 fights. “Sandeep…Sandeep…” roared his supporters while supporters of Aushotosh followed the same.
The shouting and the roaring echoed throughout the arena. So far the fight had been pretty much one sided. Sandeep had been kicked, punched and thrashed in no time which took him by surprise while he hadn’t been able to make even a single strike. He fumed with rage but the bigger agenda running at the back of his mind was to come up with a counter attack plan. He calmed his mind and started to think about his next attack, his mind started to work like Sherlock now with analysis taking the driver’s seat.
“He’s tall; I have to reach his head to get three points. Step 1 – step on his toes. Step 2 – jump onto his thighs. Step 3 – bluff a thrash and then aim a kick at his head.” He thought of a plan.
“Thud.” The sound was enough to depict that Sandeep had managed to execute his plan and Aushotosh was taken by surprise by this sudden aerial attack. Sandeep was still in the air, he landed on his thighs again and ‘thud’ – another kick on his face. Aushotosh was bemused by the sudden turn of events; what he had perceived so far about his opponent seemed a complete lie. “He is damn good, I can’t take him lightly” said his mind. The referee looked at his watch and signaled the end of the round and Sandeep had gained six points owing to the exceptional plan that he had brewed and with that he also had equalized. At the end of the second round nothing could actually separate the two – not even points.
Sandeep rested on the seat kept at the edge of the arena (dojang). His coach explained few more attacking tips and tricks. He panted slowly and was gawking at the floor. He could vividly remember the cheer – “Sandeep, go for the kill” and while he was being thrashed the mocking tone and abuse of the crowd couldn’t be unheard. He was confused as he had tasted what fighting with a champion feels like. All the strategy he thought of failed initially – his opponent seemed formidable, a feeling he never went through before. Although he had made a strong comeback but his mind was in unrest and apprehension. He came back from the wandering as the third round was about to begin. He repeated in his mind – “You won’t give up.”
“Junbi” yelled the referee signaling the start of third round. Well Junbi is a typical taekwondo terminology which means ‘ready’.
As Sandeep walked towards the battle arena or as called dojang he thought of many strategies but he was still puzzled. He could remember how an all in all attack strategy had failed in the first round – after all he was fighting with another champion. He had observed the stiff legs of his opponent but to reach for his head to gain three points was equally difficult owing to his height. Sandeep made up his mind – “I will block and attack only when I get a chance. There is no point playing an attacking game.”
The third round started however there was not much action to begin with. Both of them adopted a defensive game play. There were no kicks or attacks as anticipated by the crowd – all of them were meager mute spectator. Sandeep’s sudden comeback had silenced all of them – his supporters gazed anxiously praying for his win while the rest too joined in to admire the skills of this talented boy. The fight albeit being defensive was adorned with sporty elegance and it continued amid grotesque silence of the crowd.
Sandeep blocked a furious attack and launched an attack aiming his chest but was blocked. Both of them looked at each other – no one wanted to make the first move, the scoreboard was at standstill, no one had scored. After waiting for few more moment Aushotosh decided to attack as the round was about to end and he intended to take a lead. As he forwarded Sandeep gauged his rush. He had already been observing his stiff weak leg and before he could ready himself for the kick Sandeep launched his attack – he stepped on his weak foot, climbed onto his thighs and planted a well crafted kick on his head. Aushotosh again was taken aback at this sudden furious attack. While he was still entwined in the moment Sandeep initiated another assault – a flying round kick which also hit him on his head. Aushotosh spitted while he moved aside and the mute crowd came alive exhibiting tremendous exhilaration. The chants of “Sandeep…Sandeep.” boomed the arena again. A straight six point lead had made Sandeep the favorite to win this battle which seemed a distant dream couple of rounds back. The strong comeback made was praised by all, even the judges admired it.
As Sandeep landed back to the ground a cackle of the crumbling ground under his feet could be heard. His immaculate strikes and a flawless attack tactic had bewildered Aushotosh. He had lost his cool already, fuming with anger he impulsively decided to attack but refrained – he remembered the basic of martial art. “Don’t lose your cool” he repeated in his mind. Both of them were back in the attacking position again and were trying to read each other’s mind. For the first time Aushotosh had to consider upping his game.
Sandeep on the other hand gained confidence seeing his opponents dominance splinter. However 13 year old, young and naive Sandeep couldn’t hold his excitement. He thought of another counter attack and raided his opponent impulsively. This time around Aushotosh had alerted himself – he focused more. As Sandeep launched himself again with the same strategy, the former moved back a bit and blocked his attack and in an attempt of doing the same he accidently kicked his knees.
“Thud” a huge sound brought loud gasps in everyone’s mouth. Sandeep had fallen down and was in enormous pain – he signaled a time off and was granted. Everyone looked at the match with their jaws dropped. The match had changed its course every moment – the extreme excitement couldn’t be contained and it was quite evident from the reaction of the crowd gathered. Sandeep rolled in pain while he was being rescued by the medical team. His knee ball had dislocated and he begrudged his stupid move – he reeled in extreme pain. His coach and mentor Yuvraj Rana – a man who had been associated with this sport for quite a long time and has seen many dislocated knee cap just like his sprang right into action. Before Sandeep could utter a word he held his leg twisted it and straightened with a strong jerk. Sandeep screamed in pain unable to bear it. Although his knee cap came right into its usual position the pain became unbearable.
“You can call for a knock out if you want.” Whispered Rana while Sandeep cried in tremendous pain.
“No, I won’t give up.” Caroled Sandeep while he was still rolling on the floor.
After a lot of medical attention and emptying couple of Volini spray cans Sandeep was back on his feet. He walked towards the battle arena limping. The worried crowd there cheered exuberantly as they saw Sandeep. Amid loud cheer and heartening shouts he made his way back and took position again. Even Aushotosh looked at him with great respect now – Sandeep’s courage and zeal for the sport had mesmerized all.
The fight begun again, Sandeep this time a little weak but his attitude had won hearts already. Aushotosh decided now to exploit his opponent’s weakness. It might sound nasty but it is a part and parcel of the sport – everything is fair. He launched attack on Sandeep’s injured leg – and Sandeep blocked it successfully, crowd cheered for him and the entire arena reverberated with shouts of “Sandeep…Sandeep…”
Soon referee signaled the end of third round. Sandeep still had a healthy six point lead. However with that injured knee cap it would be difficult for him to stand that fight. Crowds’ anticipation was clouded now – nobody was able to guess, everyone bit their nail. Nervousness was shared by all. Aushotosh too became a little troubled now. He had to cover six points in the last round and albeit being injured the skills of his opponent couldn’t be doubted. “I have to attack and there is no option, I have to make the last two minutes count. May be I have to exploit his injury but that won’t be unfair” He thought.
The final round started and crowd immediately came to action rooting for Sandeep. Aushotosh did not deviate from his strategy and begun to exploit his opponent’s injury. Sandeep blocked some and tried to attack but couldn’t. Riding on his experience he made Sandeep block through his injured leg which also was his strong foot and everytime it happened Sandeep would scream in pain – crowd sympathized with him but the former had already taken advantage, he kept on collecting points and then at the end of the round, much to everyone’s astonishment Aushotosh came out victorious. The victory however was tainted and seemed to be a stroke of luck. At the end of the fight Sandeep got standing ovation from everyone gathered there whereas victorious Aushotosh silently made his way out.
“That was my last fight – a memory which can never elude my mind.” Sandeep concluded.
I was a bit confused as the story meted out was not the one I was looking for. Although I did not stop Sandeep from narrating it all but deep down there was a part of me still puzzled and in unrest.
“Aushotosh was a true sportsman and his ethics were unparalleled.” Sandeep continued “The next day I was admitted in the hospital and to my surprise he paid me a visit. He told me to continue playing.” Sandeep released a puff of air and said “I wish I had listened to him.”
Confused yet dazzled listening to it, I finally responded.
“But I was talking about your college days, the story of Lata and Neelam. What taekwondo has to do with it? I questioned.
“Didn’t you want to know everything?”
“I am telling you everything. There are a lot of stories before I met Neelam and Lata which might interest you. Just be patient dude.”
“Of course. Please carry one.” I requested him.
“I will need a smoke before that.” Sandeep egged
We lit up couple of cigarettes and stared down at the streets from the terrace where we had been seated. It was a two BHK flat in a certain society of Bangalore that I was residing in. Although the society had a huge campus and most of the flats were put up away from the streets but as luck would have it I was living in a flat which had close proximity to the crowded Bangalore streets. While rest of my society mates enjoyed complete calmness and serenity I had to deal with noise, dust and what not.
Bangalore those days was marred by filthy politics; the overtly crowded city was silenced by the raging Cauvery water dispute. I however would not blame it on politics totally as the issue isn’t just confined to politics; the needs of people here is also to be looked upon. Nevertheless I shouldn’t comment more as I am not aware much about it. The main agenda however was Sandeep’s misfortune which had been absolutely spot on; all the interviews he had applied to had either been cancelled or delayed due to the strikes that were observed to protest against the controversial Supreme Court’s verdict on the Cauvery water dispute. Streets were empty, schools, colleges and offices were closed and the super dynamic city came to an absolute halt. Sandeep and I had no other job than story telling which continued further unfolding many aspects and secrets.
(To be continued….)