At the age of 5, when most kids played around with other five-year-olds, I played with my dad. That was mainly because there were no kids around my place then.. I had friends who were graduating college or working!
My dad’s an avid promoter of badminton although he knows its rules less than an amateur. He always has felt that badminton is a very good form of exercise. The points, rules everything has to be neglected and the players have to run around from one end to the other and hit hard. That’s it. No arguments.
My dad taught me how to hold a racket when I was 5. Though its ages since then and I have forgotten most things, that scene is still vivid in my mind. He firmly held my small wrist in his rough but concerned hands and rounded my fingers on the bat. The bat was too heavy for me then, I remember throwing it down again and again. I was such a sissy..
As mentioned earlier dad never felt the need to teach the rules. I needed exercise and someone to play with and he was helping in both. Dad’s always had this thing-he wanted me to be active and in his terms active is defined as running around quickly going wherever the shuttlecock goes regardless of whether I hit it back at him or not; to pick up the shuttlecock wherever it falls, even if its on his side of the so called court.(The court here is the small road, probably 15 feet wide and an imaginative boundary in length).
I have no idea how dad had the patience to bear with the amount of my complaining, crying, brooding and idling with the bat held slackly in hand. But it was not without his venting out his frustration, may be, on me by making me pick up the shuttlecock from all over the place.
Those days there wasn’t a stone bed covering the side drains, which ran along the front of each house which, now you can mostly find in all places in Bangalore. The drains, which were dry most of the times, sometimes carried the entire dirt, waste, the plastic bags torn apart by the street dogs combined with sludge during rainy seasons. It harbored cockroaches, rats and many more gnawers and insects whose names I don’t know even after these many years. I was made to get into them in case the shuttlecock fell into it by any chance. Playing outdoors and that too on a street, which had this enormous Gulmohar tree, so magnanimous in shedding its bright yellow flowers all over the road as if welcoming each and everyone in a royal manner had another disadvantage. The shuttle got stuck every now and then in the already entangled branches of the tree. I had to run into the backyard, dig up the long wooden rod kept amongst a million other things and start a process of hitting the branches with that stick. It was like a circus show but lots of fun. The neighbors used to get to know if the shuttlecock was stuck in the branches in no time. I now wonder how!! Half the residents used to come out and give suggestions. It used to turn out like some theatre drama! Each person standing in different places in different angles trying to get the shuttlecock as though it was a princess in distress and the one who got her out was to win a kingdom! Lol! :D Great days rather evenings..
Saying this doesn’t mean dad was bad at the game. He wasn’t exactly professional but he knew how to get the juice out of the yield. He was fast and I envied him at times even then!
Dad made sure I was involved in everything! This was working fine until my brain started growing and I was able to fathom my dad’s ideas. Until then I listened to him without a word but then the little rebel in me had spurted out of the seed. I refused to be made run around picking up shuttlecocks whenever it fell down. Ha! Human nature had begun to take a toll on me transforming me from that innocent kid to something that is a phase on the way to adolescence. What do you call it by the way? Its as bad as adolescence.
Well, then began our fights.
Fights-another phenomenon that happens cos’ individuals cant be righteous, compromise, adjust and understand well all at the same time when time demands all of these!!
Every time I was asked to do something, I just shot back, he reciprocated and it continued till it went physical that we threw racquets at each other and stuff.. An onlooker would have thought we were some international rivals!! :p Yeah, my dad was my friend, more like a brother than a father! He gave me enough liberty to throw a racquet in his direction. Wonder why? He needn’t have had to.
Finally, a girly girl as I was then, unlike now, would end up in tears and he would throw up his hands in exasperation and would leave in full angst. I was no less. Wouldn’t speak to him until he got me a plate of pani or bhel puri!(one weakness that hasn’t rubbed off me even now!) And the next day we would get back to our little ingenious court and the story used to continue, day after day, week after week. Soon my dad got transferred when I was 8 or 9 I guess to Dandeli. Mom and me stayed back for preventing disruption in my studies.
He wasn’t there. Much as I wanted to play with my only best friend from childhood, I couldn’t, I missed all of it to certain extent. I never realized what I had got and what I was losing. I was losing touch of the game. But no use of complaining. So I joined basketball in school. I was into plays, winning prizes for acting and stuff. I got into the school sports band, learnt playing all instruments, and went on to become the band lead. I completed my music and Hindi degree exams. Guess that was the best part of my life.
Basketball is another totally different story and Ill probably write it in another post.
I had my hands full and didn’t think about Badminton. Didn’t miss it much.
Years passed, without a glance towards those racquets. They were getting rusted, literally, I might have thrown it away too. Dad came back, stayed here, again got transferred twice to different places and returned in all the time that passed. I’m not sure he missed playing me either. In all his transfers, I knew that he used to play with his colleagues there continuously for hours at a stretch. May be he too didn’t like fighting with me in those small precious family reunions lasting for couple of days once in two or three months.
Badminton slowly became synonymous to fighting for dad and me. And we avoided the topic also many a times. Life just went on..
We shifted our house recently to another locality, not very far but far enough to change the municipality we'd vote under.
It was at this time when I went to get my electoral card done, that I saw a father-daughter pair playing badminton. Same story. Ditto like my dad’s and mine. I began laughing aloud amidst an unknown crowd. I think all over the world dads are similar and so are daughters, atleast most of them, who aren’t blessed with a drive to achieve heights in Badminton. We just play for recreation. I just sent a message to my dad’s cell describing the situation.
It was probably after a very long time, long enough for it to seem that probably we never played together at all, may be like in a dream, that we spoke about the old times after 11 years. Felt nostalgic and that was to it. Nothing more in action.
Now after about a year, I suddenly pestered him for racquets early in the morning. Out of the blue, when pooja, my only gal classmate expressed her desire to get back at playing badminton, I felt like I wanted to play too!
He asked me to remind him in the evening. I kept sending reminders so many times to his cell that he was all curious to know what the fuss was all about. He eventually got it. And we started playing at around 8 in the night till 10.. Not as bad as I thought it would be for playing after 12 years. I missed few shots here and both lost equal number of rally.
But what had changed is that I was no longer not willing to pick up the shuttlecock where it had fallen, and he was no longer forcing me to bend down. I infact understood now why he used to ask me to do all the picking up, why he wanted me to get more physical work. He has grown old, but hasn’t lost the spirit. I’m not sure if any of the 55-year-old dads play with their adult kids these days that too after a hard, grueling day at work. I am 21 years old and he shows the same enthusiasm as I do, albeit he gets tired after around half to three fourth of an hour. A threshold which has considerably reduced over the years. Feel a little sad about it, but even now I have no one else to play with here. ‘Cos all my new neighbors are 5-year-olds going to kindergarten and school…
Dad doesn’t look like he is getting old. But he is! People in his office and outside tell him every now and then. He doesn’t wear branded stuff but all colors and prints match him to the dot. He gets complimented about his energy and zest for life every other day and wherever he goes. He recently (about a couple of weeks back) climbed an 8 km high vertical mountain easily in his leather slippers as though it was his daily walking grounds when others like me were panting for breath!
But today he is tired after half an hour, when I am not. He can’t run from one end of our still small court to the other now like the way he used to. I generally used to call it a day when I was young, but now its dad. I don’t want to force him either. I wanted to play for some more time but he couldn’t. He is still my only best friend for games but he isn’t the same.
Irony of life-when he wanted me to play upto his standards, I was foolish and took everything he said against me personal, not for my good. Now when I have risen to his standards, he is no condition to play how he used to. I’m disappointed now. I look to see if I can find someone else to play with.
But he still remains as loyal and ready as ever when it comes to playing. Never heard him say no to me anytime for anything.. Really wonder how he does that! Got to learn quite a lot from him..Have hurt him many times before but it turns out that he doesn’t bother if I love him or not, he just does….on and on…asking nothing in return…