But why…? Because my youngest grandson is in it – as simple as that.

That morning particularly Rohan got ready for school at 6.00 sharp. Any other day one witnesses at this time a near war when his parents take up positions to wake him up. He ran down the stairs putting on his heavily padded gladiator-like American-football uniform. It raised his shoulder level and enhanced his body circumference by three inches. Now this 5’3” frail body looked somewhat fit to challenge the kinds of WWF 6’1s and 6’2s later in the battlefield.

How come Rohan you are wearing the play-uniform now; the game starts at 6 in the evening isn’t it? I asked him, worried if I got the play-time wrong by chance. I too was to watch it. “My coach wants it that way,” he said nonchalantly.

Admission to this Public (read Government) Higher Secondary school started in January, and Rohan enrolled himself only in May. Thus these 9th graders have very little exposure to the game. And here they are in the arena for the 9th graders’ inter-school state tournament. Each school takes up a specific game to develop at the State and possibly at national level. This school specializes in American football – different from the football the rest of the world knows. They call that soccer.

Those who enroll for the game necessarily practice five days a week, sit together to do the homework in the school itself before being allowed to go home at 6 pm. And if because of their pre-occupation in games they don’t measure up to the academic standards, they are removed from the game-session forthwith. So, it’s play and studies together. No mistakes.

 “Thatha, do you know what this game is all about, and how it is played,” Rohan asked me. “Not exactly, but don’t worry. At the stadium Patti and I will just follow your parents – whenever they applaud, we will do so, and whenever they shout,” Oh my God..,” we will repeat that seconds later, I assured him. “My Dad will brief you on the game during the day,” he said, as he rushed into the car to be dropped.

The 50 odd boys picked up for the three-hour play in four half-hour sessions, were earlier divided into three groups – the best, the next best, and a little less. Rohan was on the top of the second list. It was thus a 50:50 chance. Earlier the coach had called him aside and told him, “Rohan it is highly probable you might be inducted into the main team to play.” It became all the more important for the grandparents, least exposed, to cheer him just in case he makes it. One had to buy entry tickets, regardless.

The referee blew the whistle; the game started. Our eyes were focused on Rohan, 84, whose number we were intently watching amongst the host of other aspirants waiting on the wings. “No luck in the first quarter,” said my son somewhat disappointed.

He explained to me the nuances of the game, and I transmitted it to Aunty to the best of my poor ability – I was seated in the middle. As it progressed, he began explaining the intricacies of the game, asking me in between, “you understand? “I understand,” I lied.

The second quarter started. Again no 84 in sight in the arena. Restlessness marked my son’s face. Luckily by the end of the second quarter the team had established their supremacy over the Tucson team with a wide margin.

Patti’s prayers seldom go unanswered, Rohan always believed. His coach called out Rohan to the ground in the third quarter. And he played with gusto for a while before someone else was given the chance. In the fourth quarter too he was called, and this time for a little longer. He did his best here too.

On our drive back home my son patted Rohan, ‘good take off Rohan’.  ‘Count your blessings, don’t get worried not being in the 1st and 2nd quarters.’ pacified his mother. “We enjoyed watching the game,’ said grandma. And, before I could formulate my words into a sentence, my son took an unscheduled left turn. Yes, he spotted ‘Dairy Queen Drive-in Ice Cream” shop. “Let’s celebrate the occasion with ice cream,” he proposed. “Sure,” I seconded. Ek ne kahi, duje ne maani, Nanak kahen dono gyani.