Everyone I met that day gave me the same look. ‘You stand no chance today’ look. They had good reason to do so. The opposition was faster, stronger, and fitter.
It was a fairly small, insignificant local badminton tournament. For us, teenagers. I had reached the final, which in itself was a bit surprising. Only two days back, I was facing elimination in the quarter finals against a more skillful player. I only won, because, he got tired very soon. I played very erratically in the semi finals too. Against a much taller player. I won, again, because, he didn’t know how to use it. The other finalist, on the other hand, had steamrolled everyone on his route to finals. To worsen matter, it seemed to me, that everyone on that day had come to see me properly and duly thumped.
The only people in my box were, my papa and brother. The first set began. And it ended in a flash. It wasn’t a surprise for anyone. I was, to say the least, annihilated. My movements were slow. My judgments were wrong. Smashes weak. Placements non-existent. As I sat in the chair in the break, I saw papa standing by my side. He didn’t say anything. Or may be he did, just by looking at me. Fight.
We came back on court. Mind and body started to work in sync. I found what I was looking through the whole tournament. Rhythm. I was a different person. I won a closely fought 2nd set. Surely, this must be an aberration, others thought. OR NOT. I won the 3rd set as well. By an even bigger margin. We were both tired. As we sat in the break, Papa looked at me again. That’s more like it. The match was ON. We started the 4th set. The tables turned again as he gathered himself and won, once again, a closely fought set. Everything had boiled down to the decider. The 5th set.
No one expected the match to last this long. But it did. No one expected it to stretch to 5th set. But it did. No one expected me to be still standing. But I was. We both gathered our last ounces of energy and played a match worthy of a final. Every point was fiercely fought. The two teenagers were diving all over the court, and every time, the spectator cheered or clapped, our energy level got up. No one was supporting anyone. They were supporting both of us. They were cheering the game. Ever saw a game, where you thought, no one deserved to lose? When you thought no one deserved to take a smaller trophy? *
Winning and Losing fades into the background. What remains is, Pure Sweat. Honest Effort. A bruised elbow. A bleeding knee. Panting of the heart. In the end nothing mattered. We both were equally breathless. And we both had a sleepless night, as we kept playing the match in our heads over and over again.
*At that time, I admit, I was playing to win, and these thoughts come, when I see things from the outside.
By the way, I lost.I am sure, If I would have won, this post would not have come. :P