The stakes were very high. It was going to be the grandest game of the year considering the intensity with which this tournament was coming to an end. Everyone in the class had arrived early this morning, to look at the two competing teams practice separately and redefine the tournament’s new standards.
The previous tournaments had been good as well, but the bar had already been raised with this year’s participants. The rigorous preparation, the meticulous strategies, the scrupulous plans and the hours spent determining the right equipment were all coming to a culmination with the competition down to two teams. It was only after a hefty competition that the teams had even managed to reach this stage.
As the students came back from the daily prayers in the school ground, the day of determining the champion began.
The organizer of the fight – Mangesh, had a paper in his hand that detailed the timetable of the 8th class for the day. A period of Science, followed by one of Maths, then of English and finally Social Science had to pass before Mangesh could even think of commencing the match. For it was only after the Social Science period that Mangesh knew the teacher would give a free period.
Free periods in school meant the students were allowed to work on their homework, but they were expected to maintain silence if the teacher went away from the class. Of course, the students had to agree to the demands. Usually, the teachers sat in the class doing their personal work, but this particular teacher that Mangesh was targeting never came to class during free periods. Thus, he was willing to pick the risk, despite being aware of the noise and the excitement that would spread in the air during this time.
As the first period began in the morning, the teams – Team Rockers and Team PentaBoys had already taken the last two rows of benches in the class. The teachers noticed this, and a few even complained, but with enough pleading, the teams were able to find their way and continue.
Their notebooks were out on the desks, but hardly did they pay any attention to what was being taught. The teachers always focused on the students in the front seats, so they didn’t bother any of the contestants. As the periods went by, the teams were already busy with taking a rigorous look at their equipment, making sure that they were at their mental best, exercising their right hand and left hand fingers to their best abilities and grazing their hands on the desk surfaces to assess the quality of surfaces.
Team Rockers had a reputation of being extremely offensive when it came to the games. In the six knockout rounds they had won before this, they had actually gone on to make their opponents cry for even a few points. Most of their matches had ended within minutes, which went on to make them the more confident contenders for the final match.
Team PentaBoys, on the other hand, had developed a different kind of reputation. They had barely managed to win the first round, considering the fact that their match went on for more than 20 minutes. In the second, third and fourth round they played extremely defensively. Their opponents were attacking them for the most part of the game and they played a catch-up game, but managed to win towards the end somehow. In the fifth and sixth rounds, they had still defended, but managed to defend their position confidently, letting the opponents commit their mistakes. All this had led them to a lot of bad publicity among the crowd, who deemed them as lucky winners.
As the Social Science period ended, it was finally time for both the teams to prove their mettle.
“Okay, everyone in the class, please be prepared,” Mangesh announced, as he latched the classroom door from inside. The periods lasted 35 minutes, so he had to hurry to ensure that the results were out towards the end of the grueling game.
As everyone gathered around the two desks in the last row, Mangesh rushed through the crowd, twisting his way through the narrow space between the wooden desks.
“On my left we have Team Rockers, and on my right we have team PentaBoys. Both the teams have played to the best of their abilities to reach here, and it is now time to decide this year’s champion. I won’t take much time, but just tell you the rules to be clear.” He paused, looking at each player’s face once. “You have to knock down your opponent without letting any of your equipment fall down. There’ll be 5 rounds, each round having one face-to-face match between two opponents. Every team member has to go in at least one round, so 5 team members for 5 rounds.” He looked around towards the crowd, corroborating that everyone understood the rules.
When the two teams agreed to the rules, Mangesh took a look at his wrist watch-30 minutes to go before the period ended. He was particularly about time because there was no time limit to a round. In the knock-offs, the team matches had lasted almost 20 minutes at times.
One player from Team Rockers and one from Team PentaBoys took their place on the bench which had a capacity of 2. At once, the stationery pouches of both of them were out, and two pens swiftly came out of them. Once the referee, Mangesh, inspected the pens, the match was about to start.
Pen Fight- a game which had reached echelons of every school in the city, was taken to the next level by Mangesh and his team. A game which was played by almost everyone in schools because of its simplicity, this school had taken it a level further. With immaculate planning and a long-lasting structure for the game, Mangesh was confident of the game’s popularity only going upwards.
The first round began. As the player from Team Rockers lodged his pen with a starting move, the player from Team PentaBoys counter attacked with a stronger force, making sure the pens thrusted each other towards the centre of the table. While Team Rockers had an offensive, heavy pen, the other team chose a lighter pen which had a firm grip. This kind of a pen allowed for a firm hit and ensured the pen didn’t slip off the table unless it was hit very hard.
The crowd was excited and chanted the teams’ names time and again to encourage them. The referee allowed the team members their time to decide on the angles at which the pens should hit each other, else they would fall. As such, the team members were taking their time to find the exact spot where the pens would hit each other.
With the flick of their fingers, the opponents continued hitting each other hard. It was only after 20 shots from the two sides that the Team Rockers’ pen was on the top-left corner of the rectangular bench. But now, the problem was that the PentaBoys’ pen would risk falling off if the speed with which it hit the other pen was high.
But unlike their reputation, however, the PentaBoys member decided to attack rather than letting go off the opportunity. With a flick, his pen rotated around itself while moving towards the other pen. Its writing end the middle of the opponent’s pen. As a result, the grip held on the bench, silently looking at the opponent’s pen fall off the table. PentaBoys had won the first round.
The lead was exciting, but the player from the PentaBoys that went second had lost all his rounds till date in the tournament. The efforts from others had offset his performance. Now was the time to step up for the team. This time, he chose the lightest and the quickest pen of all the pens that were in the pouch, while his opponent chose a heavier pen with an excellent grip. As a result, there was a high chance that the PentaBoys’ pen would fall off if it was hit on its thin abdomen even one time.
The PentaBoys’ pen, however, had a powerful hand flicking it, which empowered it to go and hit the heavier opponent’s non-writing edge and it slid away from the desk because of the impact. The way they had played the first two rounds were starkly in contrast with their reputation of playing a catch-up game. They were hitting their opponents hard right away.
This was the best opportunity that PentaBoys had to finish the game. The crowd had cheered against them throughout the tournament, but because of their superb performance in the last two rounds, some of them had already started swinging over. The tournament’s end was in sight. Added to this, their captain, the best defensive player in the class had come to the bench now to try and finish the game right away.
As Mangesh clicked his whistle, the crowd went into a complete silence from just a moment ago when the school’s corridors were filled with voices of the boys and girls of Class 8th. Mangesh’s efforts to calm down the crowd had been put to waste earlier in the tournament, so he no longer bothered to even try. As a result, the crowd was much livelier and louder.
The third round began. The Rockers, who had decided to leave their best to the last, decided to go all in. Their best attacker was on the bench facing the PentaBoys’ defensive captain.
With only the first stroke of the Rockers’ mid-weight pen, the PentaBoys’ pen was out on the lower-right corner of the table, a sweet spot for winning. The next hit could take away at least this point from the PentaBoys’, in case their pen remained in the area.
But the captain tactically brought his pen back into the centre with his next move, not allowing the Rockers to take the point so easily. The rockers continued with their attacking strategy, as they decided to go once again with all the thrust they could provide to their pen. The pen almost flew off from the table as it hit the other one, but somehow held its grip. The opponent’s pen was again in the corner, but the captain was adept at bringing his pen out of risky situations. This time, he flicked his pen back towards the upper end of the center.
Most of the crowd was constantly rooting for the aggressive game that they were seeing from the Team Rockers. Everyone knew it was just a matter of time that the Team Rockers would win the point. And looking at their next two contestants, the team was still in solid shape to win the match despite the loss of two points earlier in the game.
Someone had already unlatched the door, and more people were pouring into the class, but the excitement didn’t subside. This was the kids’ first experience of playing in front of the crowd, a crowd which was much closer and much more intense than some of the cricket games they had seen on television.
It was only after thirty shots that the Rockers had brought the PentaBoys’ pen on the lowermost left corner and were looking to kill the opponent in the next move. In fact, the captain of PentaBoys’ faltered as he tried to get his pen back to the centre, as he put a lot of torque on the pen which rotated in place but didn’t displace any far. As a result, it was still on the lower-left side of the table, and people knew this was it.
As the Rockers’ pen, which was right in the center of the table thrusted forward because of the powerful flick, it managed to reach the PentaBoys’ pen within a split of a second. Its writing side hit the non-writing side of the other pen which moved the pen towards the right side of the table along the longer edge. But because of the immense power put into the shot, the Rockers’ pen continued on its journey and flew from the table, while the PentaBoys’ pen actually moved towards the right side of the table.
PentaBoys had won, and how? The crowd, apart from the five people supporting PentaBoys went silent, but later a few more started cheering for the winners. It was a historic feat that the team had achieved, one that would be remembered by everyone for the rest of their lives! The defensive team had its best attacking strategy put to work in the final game, right when it was needed. As the livid crowd realized the importance of the win, more and more started cheering for the winners. In fact, when Mangesh tried to announce the winners, his voice couldn’t even reach 10 people, so he decided to cut the formality short.
But amidst the commotion, a wooden stick smacked hard on the table which was the battleground. This was the exact slick sound that no student in the class liked to hear, especially when they were in the middle of a celebration.
“To my office, all of you! Mangesh, you as well!” the class teacher summoned the red-faced jubilant boys. She had waited for the end of the match just by the crowd, making sure no one noticed her waiting patiently. While she was happy from the inside to see the kids celebrate joyously at one of the smaller pleasures of life, she also wanted to discipline them at the right time.
She was, after all, answerable to the higher management at school.