Aathi was narrating the whole story to the new-born twins, as they listened intently as if they understood everything, “I was dodging. My eyes were on the analogue clock that seemed to be counting down to 2 minutes eternally. 70 more seconds to the next time out, it was only the 6th round but I was already blacking out. Blocking the opponent’s punches against your face isn’t an easy thing, you know?”
This is not how Aathi intended the match would go. The Opponent better known as ““The Russian”” was leading the round with 4 points.
“This is exactly the opposite of what I had in mind. I was supposed to breeze through the Finals. Being the Reigning champion and considering that “The Russian” was inside the ring, only because another challenger got disqualified after the referee was “accidentally” punched during the Semis should make me the obvious winner, but fate had other ideas. In that fraction of blackout, I had let down my guard. A Red boxing glove was floating towards my face. I tried my very best to dodge and move my head. Time slowed down at that moment, a moment every boxer fears. I see the red glove’s shining fist travelling towards my face, my cheek, in fact, in slow-motion.”
Aathi stares into the microcosm, paralysed with shock. The whole crowd pauses as “The Russian” delivers an astounding blow.
“The red glove transforms into fingers. A soft hand whose palm felt like the softest cloth you’ve ever felt. The thin Silver ring felt like an Icy Kiss planted on my cheeks, the caress of the fingers felt warm. It was the most confusingly comforting feeling. It was as if the hand was asking me to lie on its palms and to take all the rest I need”
Everyone including Aathi’s coach was gasping loud. The punch had sent the mouth guard flying into the crowd. The Super welterweight champion’s face had taken one of the strongest punches ever witnessed. No one expected a punch so hard from “The Russian”. Aathi fell like a log on the ring floor. The crowd erupted as the referee began the knockout count.
Ishi continued the flip side of the story, “I was on the other end of the city, I was tapping my feet frantically, my final chance to prove myself to the world was right beyond that curtain. It was the showdown between Myself and Bharathi, Ishi “the Drumming Barista” and Bharathi “the Ballet”. I’ve always wanted to be a drummer, my whole family was disapproving, even my sisters whom I thought I was close to, didn’t support me when I told them I’m going to take part in, “Are you ‘The One’?”. But here I was, a simple coffee shop assistant, in an international stage against one of the best drummers in the world. I will win this.”
The crowd was booing when the host announced Ishi’s name. It was because of ruckus that happened during the previous round. Ishi had challenged last year’s winner of “Are you ‘The One’?” and it had ended in an exchange of harsh words. The screen lifted and the competition officially had begun.
“A.R. Rahman was in the front row and he gave me the warmest of smiles. It reminded me of Aathi’s. The Judge struck the gong, the sound of which took me back to the first time I saw Aathi. The boxing ring was echoing of grunts and moans, of people getting punched in face. But inside the ring was a dancer, the most graceful dancer I’ve ever seen. A dancer whose eyes showed me myself. Dodging the opponent’s jabs and punches with such elegance was Aathi. As Rahman’s Jeans theme ran through my head, I began to fall in love with Aathi’s movement. I must say that I’ve never seen someone so charming and powerful at the same time. Little butterflies popped up in my stomach and my feet and fingers began drumming some random music. For some reason, boxing became my favourite sport at that moment. And something inside told me that I had to get to know more of this person, or else my head will burst. Right after the match, I asked Aathi out. Yes, I did ask that boxer out for dinner. It was a positive answer.”
Ishi’s thoughts were disturbed by a countdown from the crowd, Bharathi would always start her piece after a countdown of 10, and the crowd followed her. She was called ‘The Ballet’ because her fingers in close-up would look as if they we’re dancing over the Drum.
“It was unexpected, but that caressing touch was what I needed at that moment. Though it was the first date, and I’ve never let anyone touch me, I loved the feel of Ishi’s palm on my face.”
Oneeee! Echoed into the crowd.
Twoooo! Crowd followed again.
Aathi’s Coach was screaming, “Aathi! Get up, get up Aathi!”
“My head was spinning from the punch I had just received. I was trying my best to push myself up. It was as if the world was moving faster around me. I put my gloves to the ground and pushed myself up, I was not able to. My body had no strength. I blamed myself; I was too pompous and too distracted to do the training. But how would I be able to forget my darling Ishi? That baby face, those glowing eyes and the quivering lips, I was not able to get that face out of my mind. I was reeling inside my mind; my body did not have the strength my Mind had. How I wished Ishi was here, cheering”
The counting stopped abruptly
“I got up and adjusted myself and my position on the stool. Distracted by my sudden move, Bharathi continued her counting, now I could see a little stress on her face now. I was thanking Aathi for this. ‘Boxing isn’t only about physical strength and fitness, it is also about psyche, every movement of yours will affect the opponent’s psychology babe. Something as simple as a sneeze would put the opposite party out of function momentarily. Use it.’ “
“I got up. Somehow pushed myself up, I stood”
Noticing that Aathi’s mouth guard missing, referee declared a timeout.
“Yes coach, I just got Distracted, yes coach, I will concentrate”
Only Aathi’s body was there, soul wasn’t.
“Gritting the guard between my teeth, I charged forward towards “The Russian”. Landing three solid punches on the face, I proceed to do a pseudo-jab. But I was surprised by a lower hook that landed on my chin out of nowhere and time slowed down again. I saw the glove pull away from my face as I began to fall back and my reflex kicked in”
The red glove turned into a red rose pulling away from Aathi’s nose. Ishi appeared in sight sitting in front of me, giggling like a little girl.
“Ishi used the rose again to rub it in my chin because it tickled me. Ishi blushing, “Those are the most beautiful pair of eyes I’ve seen. Makes me want to keep staring into them.”
Aathi interjecting, put a finger on Ishi’s lips, and kissed.
“It was the most soulful kiss ever, we’d forgotten we were in a restaurant and we were lost in the warmth of each other’s lips.”
“That mixture of lipstick and bubble-gum flavour was still lingering in my mind. Bharathi had begun her bout with elegant tricks on the cymbal alone. I was unsure of how I was going to perform in the final round. 3 more minutes for her to finish her performance and It would be my turn to prove myself to the world. But my mind kept drumming that tune I picked up from Aathi’s box training rhythm, ‘thup-thup thup-thup thup-thup’. Now-disturbed by Bharathi’s mix of mridangam and Tabla, I began losing my confidence, beat per beat, as her fingers drummed, “tapa tapa tapa tapa”, my mind was empty, only the sound of a mridangam was echoing in my mind. “tapa tapa tapa tapa…”, reminding her of that day.
“‘Ishi, come here, I met Aathi today.’ I hear a ringing noise in my ears. Aathi had met my Dad, a martial arts instructor now, The Ex-Major General from Indian Special Ops. The person I fear & respect the most had met my spouse. Aathi had done it. Aathi had spoken to my dad, and I was standing in front of him, looking at his mouth moving, but only a ringing sound in my ears.
“We shall talk about the marriage if Aathi retains the title, and you, get a job or win that competition if you need my permission.”
Ishi knew that dad did not care about the title, but only about his child’s life. But Aathi, wanted to show him that the title won’t be lost. Aathi wanted to win the match only to show Ishi’s father that he was wrong in judging their love as infatuation.
The mridangam vidvan was on a roll, playing the most difficult piece in the raga. “tapa tapa tapa thuppa thup thup”
Aathi’s lips were bleeding.
“Missing a beat had almost costed my teeth and lips, I had to win this, this is my only chance to prove myself to Ishi’s father”.
Only 30 seconds was remaining, and If Aathi somehow manages those 30 seconds of “The Russian” barrage, the timeout would help to recuperate.
“I breathed a sigh of relief when the gong went off. I sat on my stool, waiting”
The crowd’s loud cheering drowned the gong.
The crowd’s loud cheering was stopped by the gong.
“Done waiting, I stood up from my stool, I could feel breathing becoming heavier after the gong went off”
I threw up left drum stick in the air, and struck the cymbal with the right one”
“I saw Ishi. Standing there on the other side of the signal, the person I loved the most. The person I was ready to share my pizza with, the person whom I can cook for.”
“I saw Aathi too, standing on the other side like a dumb human, looking for someone; that someone was me. I tell you kids, I was very much ready to wash this human’s dirty under(you mean underwear?) for eternity. And I still do.
They both went running towards each other, and hugged. But the sentence they uttered to each other at the exact same moment was the most confusing one, even for me, the narrator.
“I won but I lost, Aathi”
As the Narrator, I rewound back to the part after the gong went off at Ishi’s competition.
Announcer: “The Judges have decided a contestant and Winner of “Are you ‘The One’?” Title, a house at OMR in Bustancia and a fully funded scholarship at KM College of Music goes to…. Bharathi “The Ballet”!!”
Amidst the celebrations, AR. Rahman Requests for the Mic, “I Would also like to offer a fully funded scholarship to KM College of Music and a position of drummer in my crew…”
“…My ears were ringing too… My opponent’s jab had landed on my left ear which left bees singing in my ears. Another punch, and I was Disoriented and was blocking my way into the corner. Referee broke us and started again. I decided to finish it and I sneezed. A Fraction later my punch knocked out Irvina Sokolov, “The Russian”.
Something as simple as a sneeze would put the opposite party out of function momentarily. Use it.
Or so I thought, she got up in the 9th count and won straight”
“Aww, that’s alright, but what did you win, darling?”
“We both did not make the required weights prior to the Match and the match was declared as a Non-title match, I still have my Championship title”
They hugged the longest ever and walked with their fingers entwined.
Their Marriage Invitation read
After this long story, the twins were fast asleep unaware that their Mother was a 5-time World Boxing Federation Champion and Father was regarded as the best drummer in the millennia.
Refer: WEIGHT AND WEIGH-IN CEREMONY * If both the World Boxing Federation Champion and the Challenger fail to make weight, the championship shall not be vacated at the scales and the contest will go forward as a non-title contest and the World Boxing Federation Champion shall retain the title, regardless of the result of the contest.