Saturday, May 07, 2005


Recently I have taken up playing badminton over the weekends with some friends and its suits-me-just-fine none too heart thumping kind of strenuous games. The crowd that shows up is a good mix of Indians, Chinese and Koreans and it’s mostly doubles that we play, with everybody getting to rotate their partners and opponents pretty regularly. Being extremely sports-crazy, though I do not excel at any sports, badminton has always been one of my favorite sports growing up in India, a distant two after the ‘white man’s’ game viz. cricket.

Growing up in Bombay I still remember playing badminton on our society grounds, starting as early as 6:00 in the morning and going on a few hours thereafter. We were forced to play very early in the mornings because a.) No passing vehicular traffic at that time and b.) Not much wind early in the morning. In those days playing at clubs was an exclusive and expensive affair and we had to resort to creative improvisations to follow our passions. So an entire gaggle of brats would assemble early in the morning as the fellow society members were woken up by loud arbitrations of ‘Shuttle Cock in/out’, by the Prakash Padukones of our society.

There was this big, menacing looking Punjabi uncle who lived on the first floor and worked the night shifts as a shift engineer in some plant. Barely would his head have hit the pillow, after a hard nights work, the screams from the badminton courts would emanate, irking the heck out of him. Many-a-mornings he would come charging to the balcony hurling expletives at us and berating our lack of social etiquettes. We’d stop for a few minutes, to hear him rant, and then promptly go back to our game. Sometimes the shuttle would end up in his verandah, and no one had the temerity to request it back from them. Whoever hit it, pays for the shuttle.

The biggest hindrance we faced was the lack of the outlines of the court since the lines would be drawn with chalk. Thereby the calls on the line or outside the courts were always ambiguous, to term it mildly. Unless Mr. Patel officiated the match, while brushing his teeth, in only his pajama and banian, outside on his veranda. Foaming at the mouth, filled with toothpaste and trickling down the sides , with his brush in hand, he would call “In” or “Out”, which we sometimes had to ask him several times to discern what he was saying. And if his son or daughter happened to be playing, you didn’t have to guess which way the decision would go. Sometimes the entire family stood outside, brushing their teeth, and each family member gave a different decision which caused pandemonium in our game. Dishum, Dishum fighting chalu on the courts. Ah, the good ole days, and how I miss them.

When I reached college, in my mind, I thought I was good enough to make it to the college squad. So I show up for the selection, with my old wooden racquet, with a wooden frame around it with leavers to keep the racquet head from bending. Looking at my musuem piece, the rest of the kids were rolling on the floor with laughter. I managed to win one game, because my opponent was laughing so hard that he was unable to concentrate on his game. It was all downhill after that. Ever since then I have not played badminton in a competitive environment. Unless I play my brother, everything then, of course, is competitive.


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