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Six He won't agree, I spoke to him already,' Ali huffed. We reached the end of Belrampur to get to his house. He lived in a particularly squalid pol. Ali pressed the bell. I noticed his father's nameplate had a motif of the secular political party. Ali, so late again,' his dad said as he opened the door. He wore an impeccable black achkan, which contrasted with his white beard and a tight skullcap of lace material. He looked around sixty, which meant Ali came late in his life. And who are you gentlemen?' he said. 'I am Ishaan,' Ish said. And this is Govind and Omi. We are Ali's friends.' 'Friends?' Ali's dad said, underlining the absurd age difference. 'Yes abba, they came to play cricket at the school. They have a sports shop. I told you, remember?' 'Come in,' Ali's dad said. We sat in the living room. Ali's mother, wearing a brown-Coloured salwar suit, brought in glasses of roohafza. Even though a dupatta covered most of her face, I could make out that she must've been at least twenty years younger than her husband. She scolded Ali for not studying for his test the next day. I think Indian mothers have two tasks - to tell children to eat more or study more. 'We wanted to talk about coaching Ali,' Ish began after Ali left the room with his mom. 'Cricket coaching? No, thanks. We are not interested,' Ali's dad said in a tone that was more conclusive than discussion oriented. 'But uncle...,' Ish protested. 'Look above,' Ali's dad said and pointed to the roof, 'look, there are cracks on the ceiling. There is this room and one other tiny room that I have taken on rent. Does it look like the house of a person who can afford cricket coaching?' 'We won't be charging Ali,' Ish said. I glared at Ish. I hate it when he gives discounts at the shop, but a hundred per cent off is insane. 'What will he do with cricket coaching? Already school is difficult for him after the madrasa. This is the first time Ali is studying maths. And I can't even afford a maths tutor...' 'Govind teaches maths,' Ish said. 'What?' Ali's dad and I said together. 'Really, he is the best in Belrampur. He got hundred per cent marks in the Class XII board exam.' I double glared at Ish. I was fully booked in tuitions and I already taught his clown of a sister for free. 'But Ish, I can't,' I said. 'Maybe we can do a combined deal. If you allow him cricket coaching with us, we will teach him maths for free,' Ish said ignoring my words. 'How can I teach for free? I have paying students waiting,' I said. Ish glanced at me with disdain as if I had shot down his mission to Mars. 'For free?' I mouthed to him. 'I will pay whatever I can,' Ali's dad said in a muffled voice. 'I am sorry, but this is how I earn my living. I can't...' I said, in a desperate attempt to salvage my asshole image. 'Just take it from my salary, ok? Can you let me talk?' Ish said with great politeness.

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