Friday, January 26, 2024

Tennis, Anyone? Seriously? No-one?

Late at night: 

 'I'm never playing tennis again - I fell sick after that game in the sun two weeks ago,' I announced to Vijay. 'My yoga mentor said I'm a Pitta personality and the sun just boils my system. Sorry, but you'll just have to play with Shirish and the others..' 

'Okay,' agreed Vijay, unperturbed.

'Because it's a little hard on the knees too,' I overexplain, miffed that he won't miss playing with me. 'As a yoga student and teacher, I have to think about sustainability. I don't want to injure my knees. Knees are important.' 

'Yes,' he is tuning out already, and then remembers he's supposed to respond with something, so he adds agreeably. 'It's the hard court. Hard on the knees.''

The next morning: 

'Wanna play tennis?' I ask brightly.

'Huh?' Vijay looks out the window uncertainly. 'But it's sunny...'

'You don't want to play with me? I knew it!' I say spitefully. 'You only want to play with Shirish!' 

'No, it's not that...we can play. It's just that you said - '

'You don't want to spend time with me? You hate me and want me to die!' 

Vijay rolls his eyes, and says 'I'll get the rackets. Let's go.' 

As we walk along, I chat happily while he grunts occasionally in response. '....see the thing is that sports need to be incorporated into one's schedule at least once in a while as per this Mindvalley program on longevity that I saw and therefore when one thinks of sustainability one cannot ignore the aspects of camaraderie and sportsmanship and overall, the social aspects of ...' 

'We're here!' He looks a little too grateful to have arrived at the court. 

During the knocks on the court: 

'Why are you glancing outside the court at all the passersby?' I demand. 'You hoping for Shirish to just swing by or what so that you can have a real game?' 

'What? No! And anyway, I already asked him if he can come in an hour.' 

'Oh, right. So you'll just warm up with me because I can't really play, and then have your actual game with him, right?' 

'That's not...anyway, he's probably not going to come, he might be busy.' 

'If you didn't want to play with me, you should have just said so. Why the resentful compliance?'

'It's not that I don't want to play wth you,' he snaps, 'I just want you to stop doing your choo-chaa.' 

'Choo-chaa! I do choo-chaa?'

'No, no. No choo-chaa. Come on, just play' 

'Then you should stop gazing at everyone else, and just look at me!' 

'I don't have to look at you, I have to look at the ball.' 

'Fine, then look at the ball.' 

I serve, and am rejoicing at the fact that the ball goes over the net. Vijay hits it back with unusual aggression and I think a hint a malice, and I jump out of the way. 

'Very funny.' I call. 

Vijay looks innocent.


I am panting and running around on the court, but my shots are going mostly into the net, or otherwise completely out of the court. I find myself wishing the courts weren't so public, many morning walkers pass us and look curiously at my bumbling. I run toward the ball and miss yet another shot and am about to throw my racket on the ground, when Vijay decides to give me a tip. 

'Get to the ball.'

'Wow, Honey.' I say sardonically, 'Get to the ball. I would never have thought of that. How about you get the ball to me?' 

'That's not how it -' He swallows the rest of his words. 'Anyway, what I meant was that you are preparing your racket too early. Instead, focus on just making it to the ball - and then swing.' 

'Ah.' I nod wisely. 'Okay.'

The next shot he hits toward the front of the court, I charge determinedly at the ball and place myself squarely in front of it. It hits me in the stomach. 

'Very good,' Vijay says encouragingly. 'Now, just remember to actually swing.' 


'Honey,' I beseech him after a while. 'I'm demotivated. Can you give me positive strokes?' 

'Sure.' he says, 'Positive.' 

'You don't just say 'positive' randomly. You're supposed to compliment me when I do something well.' 

'Oh.' I can see the wheels turning in his head. He's wondering when that will be possible. 

I serve the ball straight into the net.

'Okay, try catching it higher on the toss, and then flick your wrist.' 

I do that and it goes over the net. He hits it back, and shouts something. In my confusion, I swing my racket wildly and miss the ball. 

'What?' I yell. 

'Lovely serve!' He calls.

'Oh.' I said. 'But you confused me. Can you let me hit first and then give me the positive stroke?' 


I serve again, and his tip is working - it goes over the net. 

He hits it back and it's too close to my feet, and I swing clumsily, stumbling over my own feet, miss the ball and hit my left elbow with the racket. My pride and my elbow are both now hurting in equal measure. 

'Lovely serve.' Vijay calls, encouragingly. 


'Just get your angle right.' Vijay says, and demonstrates by swishing his racket, 'Like this!'

'Like this?' I imitate him. 

'No, like this.' He does it again. 


'No...see, it's like this, two C's - one C goes like this, swinging the racket down, the other C swings it over your shoulder from the front, like this.' 

'Okay, so like this?' I swing it again in the two Cs. 

'No! Like THIS.' 

'I can 'C' you are on the verge of giving up,' I say and wait expectantly for him to laugh. He doesn't.

'Look.' He says, 'Just use the face of your racket on the ball.' 

'Got it.' I say. 

The next three rallies are great. My shots are accurate like never before. 

'Hey!' He's surprised. 'That's amazing. How are you doing that?'

'Oh. I don't know.' I say. 'That cue just really worked, I guess. Face of the racket on the ball.' 

He squints at me curiously for a while. 'You're imagining slapping someone in the face hard, isn't it?'

I look innocent. 


After about an hour of this back and forth, as it were (heh heh), I find myself glancing longingly at the passersby on the road. 

'What is it?' Vijay asks.

'Isn't...Shirish coming?' 

'No, I told you. He said he's probably heading out. Are you getting tired?'

'Me!' I scoff. 'No!' 

But I find my mind wandering. When he says 'Ace' at one point, I'm thinking of Ace Ventura and wondering how come Jim Carrey isn't acting a lot in the movies these days. As I bounce the ball before a serve, I am thinking 'Wow I bounce the ball so well. I must look like a pro. These shorts are cool. Damn, did I miss the Republic day sale? Should have bought two more! Must check when I reach home.' 

I send the ball into the net three times in a row. 

'Maybe we should head back.' I tell him nonchalantly. 'My pitta personality and all, it's getting sunnier.' 


I head over to the bench and stretch for a while, and Vijay serves about a dozen hard, vengeful shots to an invisible Shirish. 

As we walk back together, I'm chatting happily 'I think I should just get Knee-braces, right?' 

'We have some at home. You can use those.'

'Nah! I'll buy them in a brighter colour. Then I'll look even more like a tennis player. So what if I really can't play, right?'

Vijay knows better by now. 'You played well today.' 

'I know, I know. I was amazing, I think. But still, I Knee-d the braces. Haha! Get it? Knee-d?' I poke him hard in the ribs 'Get it?' 

'Ha HA!' For effect, he also claps his hands together in a show of delight. I clap my hands too and laugh in a mildly delirious manner at my own cleverness. 

Tennis is a nice game. A person like me really should not play it. But once in a while, I am sure it's alright.