Thursday, August 24, 2006

Badminton (1986-1998)

I started playing badminton at the age of six. For three years I used to escort my dad to the badminton club and hop onto the court between games. I would swing and swing at balls thrown at me till I made contact with one and then I would run off the court celebrating wildly and wait for the next game to finish. I once asked father why he let me play in the evening when all other kids used to study. He told me I was such an exceptionally gifted student he had a bet running with mother that I wouldn't make it past high school. This went on for three years and slowly I got pretty good at it. So I was enrolled in a badminton camp. I was ecstatic .. I would get a court to play in and someone else would run in between games and try to hit the ball. I swaggered in on the first day .. I walked in on the second .. I crawled in on the third. By the fourth day I was crying to get out. The first year of camp was all about running, stretching, conditioning and anything else that wasn't remotely connected to badminton. I think I got to hold a shuttle racket in the 5th or 6th month of camp. By now you probably guessed that we had a good scientific coach. His name was Sivaramakrishnan and he ensured that, despite my scant abilities, my game improved.

By the time I was 13 I was a well know face in the badminton circuit. This was when a new coach came into the camp, Balachandran Sir. When it came to pushing us to the limits, sir had no equal. Workout session generally ended with all of us soaked to our balls in sweat and panting like an ironman triathlete in the last mile. And so I was forced to become better than I already was. Doubles was my specialty and at 16 I was fortunate enough to get an excellent player as my doubles partner. His name is Roopesh and as I write this he is the defending national champion in doubles. All this culminated in me rising to an alltime high ranking of national 2nd in doubles by the time I was 18.

Unfortunately, roundabout this time, betraying the high hopes of my dad, I passed out of high school showing a hithero unseen genius in academics. This brilliance took root on a bright sunny Sunday three months prior to the exam. Having nothing better to do I thought I would study a little. While searching for my text books I opened my desk and saw a brand new set. It took some time for me to realize they were mine and the only reason they were new was because they were never opened (with the exception of the maths books .. I loved math, I love math and I will always love math). Fear like I had never known before took hold of me and from that moment to the day of my exams I spent every minute of freetime pouring over the textbooks. I dint have any syllabus with me. So I had to study the whole thing. As usually happens when people panic, I overshot, and I ended up coming within shooting distance of the elite brains in college. Originally it was planned that would take a bachelors degree in arts and keep playing. But after this result intense pressure came on us from all quarters and I wavered. My brother was already doing engineering. Unlike me he was a real genius and so he found it very easy. "it's cake" .. he told me. "Just read the text book once before the exam and you will get atleast 70% .. trust me" . Woe be me ... I trusted him .. and took engineering. By the end of the first semester I realized my folly. The difference between my brother and me was a 0 .. the 0 that comes to the right of the 7 in 70%. He reads the textbook once and gets 70. I read it once and I get 7. So, in the third semester, I wound up my badminton career and dedicated my life to assembly language, digital signal processors, speech and audio codes and so on and so forth. I threw away my chance to be extraordinary so that I could become ordinary.

P.S: I am now notorious for boring people with my old badminton stories. Dreadful tales of 7 hour workouts and marathon matches. So be warned in case you run into me in the office corridor.