When I turned 18 and tried to think of all my athletic accomplishments I realized I had absolutely none. Skinny, weak and quite timid I was hardly what you might call a talented sportsman. Deeply touched by James Thurber’s article on his sporting failures I sat down and reviewed my own history with sport. This was what came out of it:
Throughout my junior school days, if there ever was anything that was cause for sorrow, it was the fact that there wasn’t a single sports activity I was good at. My class mates were mostly indifferent, but I was downright bad. Being small of stature and rather weak, I considered a game of carom to be an incredible work out (not that I was any good at it).
Football, I considered too rough and confusing. My classmates often took advantage of my helplessness as I ran back and forth piteously asking every player which team I belonged to and usually convinced me I was in the opposite team. No matter which side I was on, I was told I belonged to the other side. Hence I was always forgotten in glory or solely responsible for defeat.
When it came to cricket, I don’t recollect being anything other than a fielder (another job I failed miserably at).No matter where I stood, the ball would always come to me. The deep sense of affection the ball felt for me generally led to my downfall and once again was I was looked upon as the scum of the earth. I do recollect being a batsman once. The bowler took one step forward and gently tossed the ball. Anxious to prove my worth, I closed my eyes and took a mighty swat at it. An awed silence followed. I opened my eyes and the inert form of the PT sir lying flat on the ground; about thirty meters away greeted my eyes.
"Did the ball do that?" I whispered to a friend. "No" he whispered back "The bat did".
After that incident I gave up sports altogether and spent my time carving my initials on the bathroom door. As time passed I moved on to the walls but alas! They were filled with inscriptions of their own, so I decided to give the games period another shot. This time I tried volleyball. It took a great deal of persuasion, but I finally convinced a senior to teach me the rules. I went out there brimming with confidence and promptly sprained my left hand. My confidence drained, I returned to the senior." Hit it with both hands" he said. I went out there again and sprained my right hand.I haven’t played the game since.
Frustrated by my unsuccessful efforts, I signed up for swimming classes during the summer hols (a decision I regret even today).The coach was an enormous man, about six feet tall and six feet wide. "Swimming" he said” is instinctive." upon which he roughly grasped me and threw me into the deep end of the pool. I thrashed about wildly for few seconds before sinking. "KICK THE WATER!" yelled the coach." PULL ME OUT OF THE WATER AND I WILL!"I yelled back. Looking back, I don’t think I ever was his favorite pupil. He transferred me to the kiddy's section after that.
Though not a good swimmer, I always managed to stay calm in the shallow region, quite unlike a friend of mine. He firmly believed that if the water level was above his ankles, he would die a horrible death. I am ashamed to say, I felt quite superior to him when he would stand in water 2 feet deep and scream for help. As time progressed, my swimming abilities went from bad to worse. Finally a kid, my friend and I were the only ones who had successfully learnt nothing. In sheer desperation, the coach started teaching us all from scratch again. "Now look here" said the coach, clutching the side of the pool. "You kick out like this". He kicked out against the water. He demonstrated about 5 times and stopped.
"Ooh! Do it again! Do it again!" shrieked the kid, jumping up and down with excitement. Puzzled, the coach obliged him. "NO! Not that! I want to see those pretty bubbles again!" (Needless to say the coach didn't oblige him).
I don’t know how I survived the coaching camp, but I somehow did. Other than learning thirty different ways to drown, I never looked upon it as an enlightening experience.
I’m about 25 now. A quarter century on this planet and I can’t say I’ve progressed athletically since the time I wrote that article. IMT had a lovely football field, a couple of badminton courts, a basket ball court, a volleyball court and a perfect tennis court…and I didn’t play a damn thing until my final semester.
It’s not like I didn’t have the time. Somehow my physical activity was limited to either lifting weights at the gym or running around the field. I ran the Delhi half marathon but nothing else.
In the final semester I picked up a tennis racket for the first time in my life and I was immediately hooked. A small group of us would play from late in the night to early in the morning and I loved every moment of it. Granted we were pretty amateur but running swiftly across the court, pausing, stretching and finally whacking the ball across the net gave me a tremendous high. I loved the sweating and the grunting.
I’ve joined tennis classes now and I’m learning to play the game properly. Eleven year old kids make me look silly in comparison but I’m glad that I’ve finally taken a sport seriously. I’m not going to let go of an opportunity again.