Three Apart from cricket, badminton was the other popular game in Belrampur. In fact, the girls only played badminton. It was an excellent turnover business. Shuttle cocks needed to be replaced, rackets needed rewiring and badminton rackets didn't last as long as cricket bats. School stationery became the other hit item in the following weeks. Only some kids played sports, but every kid needed notebooks, pens and pencils, and parents never said no to that. Many times, someone buying a ball would buy a notebook, or the other way round. We offered a total solution. Soon, suppliers came to us themselves. They kept stuff on credit and returnable basis - chart paper, gum bottles, maps of India, water bottles and tiffin boxes. It is only after you open a shop that you realise the length and breadth of the Indian student industry. We kept the cricket coaching and tuitions at the same price -250 rupees a month. Customers for maths tuitions were easier to get, given the higher demand and my track record. I taught at the SBI compound building in the mornings. Ish used the compound grounds for the two students who signed up for cricket tuitions. They were the best players in the Belrampur Municipal School and had fought with their parents to let them try coaching for three months. Of course, we still spent most of our time in the shop. 'Should we do greeting cards?' I wondered as I opened a sample packet left by a supplier. At five-rupee retail price and two-rupee cost price, cards had solid margins. However, people in Belrampur did not give each other greeting cards. 'This is in-swinger, and this is off-swinger. By the way, this is the third ball in two weeks. What's up Tapan?' Ish asked a regular customer. Thirteen-year-old Tapan was one of the best bowlers of his age in the Belrampur Municipal School. Ish gripped the cricket ball and showed him the wrist movement. 'It is that nightmare Ali. Ball keeps getting lost with his shots. Why did he move to our school?' Tapan grumbled as he rubbed the ball on his shorts. 'Ali? New student? Haven't seen him here,' Ish said. All good players visited our store and Ish knew them personally. 'Yes, batsman. Just joined our school. You should come see him. He wouldn't come here, right?' Tapan said. Ish nodded. We had few Muslim customers. Most of them used other Hindu boys to make their purchases. 'You want to sign up for cricket tuitions. Ish will teach you, he played at the district level,' I could not help pitching our other service. 'Mummy will not allow. She said I can only take tuitions for studies. No sports coaching,' Tapan said. 'It is ok, have a good game,' Ish said, ruffling the boy's hair. 'You see this. That is why India doesn't win every match,' Ish said after Tapan left. Yes, Ish has this ridiculous theory that India should win every match. 'Well, we don't have to. It won't be much of a game otherwise,' I said and closed the cash box. 'Our country has a billion people. We should always win,' Ish insisted.
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