(c) J. Singh, 2017
When he entered the arena, they laughed. Here he was, half-naked, barefoot, with only a pair of faded old jeans on. He was scrawny and small. What chance did he have against the trained fighters, flexing muscles, strong, towering above him? The audience was going crazy, booing him for even showing up. After all, they had come for an entertaining show, not to watch a massacre. Money exchanged hands as they placed their bets.
But he remained steadfast, and stood firm in the corner of the ring. Finally, the organizers approved the match, and his opponent stepped inside. At six foot five, full of muscle and strength, the fighter named Kang was sure to destroy this little upstart.
The announcer with the slick black hair skipped onto the stage with a microphone in hand. He leaned close to the boy and whispered, "What's your name, boy? I need to know who to announce."
"Raja," the boy said simply.
The announcer made his announcement with great flair and pomp. As he trotted out of the ring, he threw a comment at Raja.
"Been nice knowing ya, kid. Kang is gonna wipe the floors with you."
The bell rang. Almost immediately, Kang closed in for the attack. This was going to be the shortest match in history.
Less than sixty seconds later, Raja was on the ground, blood pouring from his broken nose, limbs twisted and contorted, while Kang came in for the final attack.
"What is the prize in this match?" It was the question that Raja had asked several hours ago. This was his last hope, there were no other alternatives left open to him.
The answer to his question caused him to sign up as a contestant.
There were no rules in this tournament. It was illegal, and many people had died in the ring. But the prize money, that was the allure for the fighters.
Raja struggled to move his arms. Searing pain meant something was broken. He could hear the loud thudding as Kang ran towards him. In a few moments, Kang would finish him off, and that would be the end of him.
Remember what you are fighting for…
Kang was fighting for the prize money. But Raja mother lay in hospital, dying from a treatable disease. Their family was poor. His father had left them years ago. His mothers only hope was the prize money from this tournament. She didn't have much time left. And neither did Raja.
He waited. Kang was getting closer. With each strained breath, with each passing second, Kang was that much nearer to ending the match.
"I will kill you!" he was roaring, insulted that this boy should have the audacity to challenge him.
Kang was almost on top of him. Raja propped himself up onto his knees, waiting, gathering his strength. He would only have one opportunity, and he did not want to miss.
When Kang reached him, Raja leaped into the air. Small and light, he flew upwards to the astonishment of all. Hidden in his hand, a carefully concealed weapon. Sharp. Deadly.
Kang was momentarily disoriented. He hadn't expected this move and was trying to readjust to counter it. But it was too late. The metal shard pierced his skull, entering through the ear canal. He shrieked in pain, clutching his ear, and fell to the ground.
Raja landed a few feet away, wobbled, and then gained his balance. The crowd cheered jubilantly as money furiously exchanged hands.
Bruised and battered, but alive, Raja walked out the ring, the victor.
Remember what you are fighting for.