Friday, May 15, 2009

An Extraordinary Species

One of the lightest, healthiest sources of entertainment is something you would least expect - the badminton court. While play ought to be serious business, a lot of fun comes in from the antics and pretences of amateurs, belying the formal approach of more experienced opponents.

During training (not badminton- the months before I went to work as a 'software engineer') at Mysore, I often went along with a friend when she went to play. I was one of the very few spectators there, one amidst the hangers-around probably praying for somebody to sprain an ankle or fail an exam so they could usurp their spot on the court. To me, it was one of those few opportunities to view competition in sport- for no matter at what level games are played, competition and the will to win remain inevitably intense. The high ceiling, the nets, the green paint and the benches against the walls reminded me of the genuine athletes I'd seen jogging through the Port Stadium back home; not to say the people at the badminton court weren't taking their stuff seriously enough, but just like every crowd, this one had its own set of jokers, pretenders, people who tried too hard where it just wasn't necessary, and of course, the critics- and one undercover journalist.

I vividly remember one sweat-soaked person who plonked down next to me after a hard hour of trying, jumping high enough to give Yelena Isinbayeva the jitters, screaming loud enough to deafen Maria Sharapova's shrieks, swinging his arm so vigorously it was a miracle the racket didn't fly out of his hand or his arm out of its socket. He proceeded to 'entertain' me with the story of his life, his career, and a lot of other things that I honestly (and thankfully) don't quite remember. I would much rather have watched him play, and if you think I'm not enough of a badminton enthusiast to say so, rest assured a true badminton fan would have felt that way had he/she had to put up with his stories.

When he had run out of breath (and stories), we watched the others play; his friends and mine, some beginners on the court at the other end, a few really good players, others coming in for a Saturday morning exercise. Good play, pretence galore.
Then followed another session of story-telling and critiques- this time with a person who played reasonably well. We spent a hilarious hour watching people come in with new rackets, warming up, showing off, and finally leaving without having played a game; looking at foreigners who stared as if this game were the most unnatural of pastimes on the planet (now which country could they have been from, I wonder); praising genuinely good play, commenting, criticising, being entirely human. A complete display of honesty, if there ever was one. We had a good laugh, and though it is embarrassing to admit I don't quite remember his name now, I can remember he kept all of us in splits as the players rested and the undercover journalist continued to study the behaviour of the species that inhabited the badminton court. After that dry spell of terrible games and worse life stories, I was extremely relieved to find that there was still some sense left in the world. That hour we all spent together (the pretender, too) is something I vividly remember, and it just reinforces in my mind how memories can come from the most unexpected of places- even from a badminton court on a hot, dull afternoon in a small town, amidst people you're never likely to see again.



Rindo said...

Ah, the Badminton court. Who would forget that? The sessions that went on till midnight (I'll admit, half of it lost in waiting), the pleasure at getting to see your badminton crush do those moves you love so much, and those desperate attempts to impress her with stupid antics. Ah.

fibinse said...

@rindo So this screaming, wild waving guy was you??? :D
@jaya: Hyderabad any time soon?
We do have a spanking new badminton court you know! :)

Jaya S said...

So the mystery of the weird character unravels itself :-P.

A few months...give the court some time to develop, bring the pretenders on, and I'll be there pronto.