Friday 21 August 2009

Why do we love sport?

Yesterday, I sat on a red plastic chair under a row of trees next to the tennis court at Loyola college and watched an inter-collegiate doubles final. On the far side of the court, the hockey team practiced on the hockey ground, to one side of which rose the steeple of Loyola church.
Against this backdrop, the quality of tennis wasn't great. Talent flickered intermittently, a crosscourt return winner here, a wristy half-volley there. Mostly though, the match was strewn with errors. Volleys failed to clear the tape, returns sailed beyond the baseline, one serve hit the perimeter fencing on the full.
For all that, this was a contest, and the players were deadly serious. One disputed line call took, or seemed to take, ten minutes to resolve, and the players plodded earnestly through excruciatingly drawn-out games full of misplaced first serves. Every game seemed to reach deuce. At one point in the second set, even the chirping of birds in the branches above grew restless.
When the third set began, everyone who had so far watched idly, chatting, sensed this heightened intensity and grew silent. The hockey players gathered at the far side of the court, leaving the playing of one sport behind to witness another.
This was much like periods in so much of the tennis-ball cricket I've played, on the streets, in backyards, on baking afternoons in dusty playgrounds, periods where nothing matters but bat and ball, runs and wickets. Charged particles fill the air - you don't necessarily have to pad up in an Ashes Test, or stand amidst the thousands holding up scarves or setting off flares in a Champions League final to feel them.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Walk when you talk

Whenever I take a bite out of a burger or a submarine sandwich, I cause the stuff inside to slide out the other end. I cannot twirl spaghetti or noodles with a fork without the stuff unravelling before I raise the thing to my mouth. I'm incapable of taming mozzarella. One of my shirts has a sambhar stain on it, another a toothpaste smear.
I once saw a friend do something I could never do. He reclined on his bed and brushed his teeth slowly, with measured brush strokes, for a serious length of time, without the tiniest drop of foam dribbling down his chin.
I could have given the chap a standing ovation.
One day in the Chemistry Lab in school, I held a test tube in one hand, a filter in the other, stuck the filter into the test tube, and let go with the wrong hand.
I seldom carried stationery to school. Whatever little notes I took down, and all the doodling I did, I did with borrowed pens. A lot of people, even close friends, eventually stopped lending me their pens, because I always returned them with their clips broken. I couldn't - I still can't - help fiddling with pen clips.
I cannot paint with watercolours. I use too much water, apply too much pressure with my brush, and end up leaving a silt-like deposit of bluish-brown papier mache on the paper's top surface. I haven't tried oils or acrylic or egg tempera or whatever, so I can't say with certainty that I'll suck at those too.
During the fixed-line-phone-only era, I presciently walked when I talked. It didn't do me, or the phone, any good.