“He has been by my side during the best of times and the worst of times. If it wasn’t for him, I would be somewhere, smoking a joint and dying inch by inch, rather than standing here before all of you with this beautiful trophy in my hands. This young man is my best buddy, Aamir. I dedicate this trophy to him.”
Ramendra Kumar’s story ends; Avijit Sarkar’s illustrations, too. Aamir and Sagar go their ways, but they’ve forged a friendship that lasts a lifetime. They are, after all, Friends Forever!
Mohammad Aslam compered the prize distribution ceremony. The Chief Guest was Krishna Reddy, the Sports Minister of Andhra Pradesh. After announcing the presentation of the Runners-Up trophy, Mohammad Aslam declared, “It now gives me great pleasure to announce the Man of the Match award. Any guesses.”
“Sagar, Sagar!” roared the crowd.
“You are absolutely right. Our three member jury, comprising veteran Cricket Commentator, Ravi Prahlad, former Test Cricketer from Mumbai, Jay Balwantkar and yours truly have also picked Sagar for his sensational last over.”
Sagar walked up to the dais and received the trophy from Krishna Reddy.
“I would like to say a few words,” Sagar said.
“Sure, I don’t think anyone will mind.”
“Of course not,” Krishna Reddy said.
“Friends, what I am going to say might make you angry, shock you, or even disgust you,” Sagar paused. Aamir was in the stands with Neelabh and Narendra Puri. Vijayant Rao had joined them just in time to see the last over. Aamir looked at the SP, a puzzled frown on his face, “What is he up to?”
“I think I have an idea. I must say the boy is gutsy,” Vijayant Rao said.
Aamir shifted his attention to Sagar.
“Last year for around ten months I was in the grip of a disease that is worse than death. I was in the clutches of a monster that was sapping the life out of me. I am sure you must have guessed what this menace was. Yes, Smack! I was regularly taking this dreaded stuff and had become an addict. My studies, my sports, my very life was being ruined by drugs and there was nothing I could do about it. At that moment three people came to my rescue. The first one was my Principal, Mr Narendra Puri. He gave me every kind of support which a boy in my position would need. He got me admitted to a de-addiction centre and even made me a Prefect. Tell me how many Principals would stake their own reputation and the prestige of the school on a former drug addict?”
Sagar looked around and continued.
“The second person is Mr Vijayant Rao, SP Narcotics. He gave me strength when I needed it most. He fought for me when doubts were cast on my abilities to play the Final. In fact, without his intervention I would not have been in the playing Eleven today.
The third person is much younger than these two gentlemen. In fact, he is younger than me too. But he sure has a wise head on his shoulders. He has been by my side during the best of times and the worst of times. If it wasn’t for him, I would be somewhere, smoking a joint and dying inch by inch, rather than standing here before all of you with this beautiful trophy in my hands. This young man is my best buddy, Aamir. I dedicate this trophy to him.”
The applause was deafening.
“One last word. I would like to tell all my friends only one thing: Say no to drugs, say yes to life.”
As Sagar walked back he was given a standing ovation.
A week later, the results of the Class X Board Exam were announced. Aamir had stood eighth in Andhra Pradesh and had topped in Hyderabad. His scholarship was assured and he was ecstatic.
Shantanu had stood third in Hyderabad while Sagar had managed to get a First Class. Gopal, to Aamir’s utter delight, had also got a First Class. On the basis of this performance, he had got admission into a technical institute where he would major in the Electronics trade. Mr Puri had declared that TPS would sponsor Gopal’s higher education.
And Sagar had made it to the India Under-16 Team which was to take on the visiting Australians. Even though the interview with Alan Bright had not put Sagar in the pages of Sports Scan, his selection to the Indian Team had put him on the cover of the magazine.
How did Sagar fair against the Aussies? Well, for an in-depth answer to that question you had better ask his best friend, Aamir!
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