Just as I had sat down to study with utmost seriousness, it started to rain. I had no other choice but to quit my plans. Not that there is no roof over my head but I would not miss it for anything.
As I walked over to the terrace , I could see a thick layer of water with numerous bubbles scattered over it. They were of different sizes moving in random, haphazard, disorderly fashion and yet there was something beautiful with them. None of these lasted forever though some stayed longer than the others.
It reminded me of the lively, green football grounds of my school and the matches we played on the rainy days. At the end of the games hour we looked at each other and selected one among us as the player of the day based on how brown his white shorts and briefs turned out to be. The happiness to be judged as one was beyond words and he happens to lead the rest out of the ground; a special privilege which was much sought after.
These matches, however, were entirely different from the normal matches. We called them 'rain football'. There were no rules. No fouls and no penalty awarded in the course of the match. The opponent can push you with all his might but cannot be penalised. 'No rule' was the only rule that prevailed. Naturally these matches were haphazard, disorderly just like the bubbles but they were very popular, more popular than any other game played in the campus.
'Rain Football' had a tradition. Every new student comes to know about it first than the school curriculum. Five years ago when the 9th std boys won the inter class football competition beating the senior most , it not only broke the tradition of the 10th std retaining the cup but also made Maulana, an instant hero of the school.
He had three essential qualities: agility, deception and an eye of an expert marksman that are so important for any game but more so for football. And these he had in abundance. He was also ferocious at times and never hesitated to use brute force against his opponent especially when he comes close to scoring a goal.
Exactly a year later, the result was similar. Akbar, a newcomer to the 9th std made all the difference. He was not as good as Maulana with regards to any of the three qualities but somehow he always could come up with weakness in his opponents. And once noticed he never fails to exploit it. His brilliant coordination with his mates ensured that the strategy was implemented clean and without much ado.
Maulana was naturally upset. It must be that way because it was clearly written, atleast in his world, who the winner would be the moment he won for his class last year beating the seniormost in the school. No one had the slightest doubt untill well, Akbar exploited them with his acumen.
Interestingly, Maulana had to be sent off for commiting a serious foul play and was out of action for the last 20 minutes of the game. He believed that had he played, his team would have won but others had a different opinion.
So when after the game they met Maulana said, " Real football is not bound by rules. Rules protect the skill-less and provides them with chances to win. If you think you are a genuine player, play and win against us. Let there be no rules." Akabar was not a guy who likes to shy away from challanges moreover he had just won an incredible match.
The following sunday when the physical trainer was supposed to be on leave they decided to play. Somehow the news spread to other classes and everyone were present at the main football court. From the first few minutes it was clear why Maulana wanted the rules to be done away with. Two goals were scored by him and in both cases he indulged in serious foul play. As he was about to recieve a pass from his mate, he pushed his only opponent standing before him and now had enough time to let the ball go past the goal post. The second goal was also similar. By the end of first half one of Akbar's team mate was badly injured and were behind by two goals.
Few minutes into the second half, it started to rain but both the teams had no intention of coming off the ground. Somehow Akbar's team managed to score three goals in a very quick span of time. Maulana became unstoppable. He would now go to any extent to level the scores as time was running out fast. It was then three rare incidents took place and they had a profound impact not only on the players but also all those who were watching the match. Twice, Maulana got the chance of penalty shoot out. Normally he had as much as 5 out of 10 chances to score and when the stakes were high it jumped to 8. But just before he was about to kick the penalty shoot out he slipped and could not hit it properly. The third incident was that in an attempt to save a goal
somehow he happened to score a self goal. The match ended 4-2.
Now, it was the turn of the 9th std students to prod their seniors to play 'no rules' football the next sunday. Strange coincidence but a similar story unfolded the next sunday. Maulana indulged in foul play and at the end of first half his team was leading. It rained it the second half . Maulana missed to score easy opportunities and was part of a self goal. Akbar's team ended up winning the match. Wondering how similar the events were, Maulana was lost in thoughts. He got subdued.
The next sunday, Maulana did not indulge in his usual ways. Their team won the match. The next day in every class right from the 6th std to the 10th std, students narrated the events of the past three weeks to their teachers. And in turn the news spread to the school management.
Though they reprimanded the boys involved in playing such matches, they but could not help from wondering the turn of the events. They found the students to be discussing about it quite often. The surprise package was when almost all the skits enacted for the cultural day had somehow brought in the theme of the football matches. This was when the school management realised how much effect it had on their thinking.
Maulana echoed the feelings of his fellow students when in the monthly school magazine, he wrote, "There is always a rule even when there are no rules. That is the rule of God." Impressed by the developments the school mangement declared the second saturdays amd second sundays to be 'no rules' days. There was no timetable issued on these two days of the month. The students were allowed to spend time as per their own interests. Though initially the school management was wary of their decision, over a period of time they found that except for one or two problems, generally these two days were free of any untoward incident. Some chose to play all the day, some spent watching movies and so on but there was no report of any complaints from any quarters. They thought perhaps what Maulana said was right and the boys were well aware of it.