"Cricket is my life." announced John Clement Oscar, at the press conference as he was voted the most promising cricketer of the year for his country. The jam packed conference is common in this part of the country as cricket is a passionate sport. The entire country come's to a standstill whenever a match is being played between the neighboring country.
John's mother, Ruth Clement Oscar, was instrumental in making him a national hero. Recognizing that he had the qualities to become a fine cricketer, she had seen to that he had the best training and the country's finest facilities to practice.
A devoted Christian to the core and daughter of a pastor, she imbibed from his childhood, the good qualities of being a Christian, not only in name but in spirit. That was the main reason that John took part in all the church activities. He is also the Cricketing coach for under twelve, all of whom are the orphans from the neighboring Mother Teresa's home.
Watching John Clement Oscar play in the Inter school finals, the cricket board selector, Abdul Hafiz saw immense potential. He was mesmerized at the way he batted that he immediately took him under his tutelage.
Confiding to Ruth about his plans for John, Abdul took special care and nurtured him carefully. He was hardly sixteen when he was selected to play for his country and the maiden test century against the neighboring country made him a national icon. His popularity soared as he scored runs consistently in all the matches he played. He was frighteningly the greatest batsman the country had ever seen. The prospect of the country's cricketing future suddenly lay on John's young shoulders.
The turning point was when in an international day & night match in the state's capital, John injured his left hand little finger when practicing and rendered him unfit for that match. The result was that there was practically no one at the stadium, making the match a financial disaster.
This shook the Country's Board of Cricket Control, so much that they called for an emergency meeting. For the first time in his career as a Selector, Abdul Hafiz saw the ugly head of religious intolerance being expressed openly by nearly all his senior colleagues. At the close of the meeting it became clear that John's career was going to end just because he was a Christian.
John is a Christian and in a country that does not tolerate other religions to be practiced openly, the Board decided to end his career. All the board members were unanimous in their thinking that a Christian cannot be encouraged to become the most popular cricketer after decades of cricketing supremacy.
"Ma'am, you have to think about John's career," implored Abdul Hafiz. "His name is coming in between his continuance in the country's team. Please change his name."
"Mr. Abdul Hafiz, do you know what you are talking about?" shouted Ruth. "The name was selected by his late father and was baptized in it. How can i change it now?"
Seated in his usual corner near the window opening out to the garden at their new house, John was startled to hear his mother shout. Never had he seen her angry. From the time his father, an army Major, was killed in action, it was his mother who brought him up. She was the epitome of kindness. An ever smiling mother, even at the height of financial crises, the smile never ebbed.
"We gave him that Christian name." explained Ruth calmly. "The name was selected by his father and he was baptized in St Mark's Church. From that time onwards he is a child of the Living God. We had promised in the presence of the Almighty God that we will bring him up in the Christian Faith. And, you are suggesting that I change his name? What for?"
"Mrs. Clement, I am only suggesting that you change the name. He can practice his religion."
"No" affirmed Ruth. "Please leave my house. I won't tolerate such blasphemous talk in my house."
John returned to his college to complete his studies. He had still a semester to complete when he and his mother were granted visa to travel to the USA. It was Ruth's elder sister's idea, a US citizen, that they both join her and settle as early as possible.
It was decided that John should stay back for six more months and complete his studies.
That night before her flight to the USA, she had a disturbed sleep and woke up haggard and tired. The flight was early in the morning and she shivered at the thought that she would have to travel all alone leaving John behind. At the airport, after the Check in and other formalities, Ruth turned from the counter to join John. What she saw shocked her. Abdul Hafiz was with John and he had the audacity to walk towards her, bowing and greeting her with a smile.
The smile churned Ruth's stomach that she suddenly felt faint. This despicable man had the audacity to suggest that John change his name. Perspiring,she beckoned John as she wanted to talk to John alone. Abdul Hafiz, hovering around grudgingly walked a few steps but kept himself within hearing distance.
"Did you ask him to come?" she asked him, pointing out Abdul Hafiz.
"No ma. I did not."
"Son, be careful of that man. You be away from him." Whispered Ruth. "Promise me"
"I promise ma."
For the first two months letters from John were prompt and regular and Ruth never guessed any thing was wrong the letters made its rare appearance from the third month onwards.
Cricket is not a popular game in the United States and it came as a surprise for Ruth when she saw her two teenage nephews' watching a noisy cricket match.
"Aunty, it is the semi final of the Champions Trophy."
The teenagers were watching the match 'live' intently in the Live sports channel. Ruth turned pale.
The sports commentator's voice came out loud and crystal clear "For Mohd Khan, this is his sixth century. It's a delight to watch this bright young man. The way he hits his sixes is just amazing. This young cricketer, the star of this country, has just completed his graduation. His mother who is in the United States would be proud to watch him play.
Mohd Khan, the teenage sensation hit another sixes taking his score to...
"Aunty... Aunty." Shouted the two teenagers, as Ruth fainted on the sofa.
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.
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