Extraordinary in the ordinary

Taking a shot at life outside the tennis court

Every time I looked at the tennis ball coming towards me, it blurred out of focus while the background of coniferous trees was intact!
Published at Hindustan Times.

Through our childhood and youth, we’ve all tried our hand at different kinds of hobbies and games. I was no different. From pottery to oil painting, swimming to croquet, I was quite enthusiastic. Few of them stuck with me, and few others dropped off naturally. The process of ‘learning’ each makes for unique stories. Here’s my experience with the sport of tennis.

It was the summer of 1999. Every Sunday, my father would take out our bright purple motor car, and drive me to the tennis courts at the Wellington Gymkhana Club, Tamil Nadu. As the familiar scent of sweet peas flowers filled the air, I knew we were close to its parking space. The Club’s entrance overlooked golf courses and an immaculate horse riding arena. I often saw chocolate-colored horses tethered to wooden fences, bobbing their heads like sweet peas nodded in the wind.

The tennis courts in the Club’s rear were professional clay courts, with net, balls, racquets, floodlights etc. of top quality. And my coach was a personable man. While serving the ball, he’d call out from the other end of the court, “Backinggggg…..” which meant I had to return a backhand shot. “Foringgggg…..” and I had to return a forehand shot. I was amused by the expressions, but his sincerity overshadowed grammar.

All seemed good, but only logistically. I was soon to discover that I was more interested in everything that lay outside the court’s boundary.

You see, the courts were perched in a cozy dip between the Nilgiri slopes. Wherever I stood, whichever angle I positioned myself at, I couldn’t help but gawk at the landscape enveloping me. Pine, gum, and acacia trees carpeted the hillocks in shades of green and brown. Every time I looked at the tennis ball coming towards me, it blurred out of focus while the background of Christmassy coniferous trees was intact! (I guess that’s what a reverse Bokeh would look like!) Instead of hitting back, I’d imagine sprinkling glitter on the ball and pinning it on the edge of a triangular tree!

So there I was, standing with my racquet inside the white line marking the court’s boundary, secretly waiting to hear, “Okay, that’s all for today. Now you practice against the wall.”

And off I went straight to the base of the pine trees! How I loved the fragrance of pine…It was so fresh. On some days, I touched dew drops surviving in dark corners, and if the sun had swallowed the dew, I’d play catch-catch with its rays peeping through chequered spaces. I was careful not to scare away the squirrels. With their bottle brush tails and stroked backs, they pranced about with such dexterity that I almost envied them! I wished I could also skip and hop like that!

I’d often sit on the moist ground and collect pine cones. I was so fascinated by them, and still am. I observed them closely. They’re symmetrical and they’re disorderly. A fairly complex creation. I remember carrying few home one day, and sketching a girl wearing a multi-layered dress in the design of a pine cone. How grand she looked! That day, I was convinced I had found my answer to who God was. God was an artist. Because only an artist could craft something as exquisite as a pine cone.

No wonder that my tennis classes never proceeded beyond the beginner level. I did not learn the sport, but I sure learnt nature’s ways. I lived my imagination, satisfied my inquisitive mind, and expressed myself creatively.

We begin an activity aiming for X, but many a times end up finding Y. I’d say, hold on to that Y for it can bring you closer to who you are.

This article was Published at Hindustan Times.

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