The wait for badminton

Another year gone by. Shiny new racquets sitting in the cupboard never fail to remind me that I need to take charge of my life. Take a chance they (the racquets, not the voices in my head) scream. We are lonesome. Badminton is tailor made for our times – a socially distanced sport.

Some things pass you by because you didn’t try hard enough. At the surface it would seem like that (there are always underlying factors) but some of it is true. While waiting for a partner last year the universe intervened (thanks pandemic). I will have to be a quiet athlete (thank you for the term Susan Cain), if I have to be fitter! Next time I will definitely play a sport but when the time comes I talk myself out of it like the sleepy me does when the alarm beeps every morning at 515 AM. I always tell myself I will run/cycle/dance but I end up just walking.

I love my solo walks. There was a time when I couldn’t walk much so I feel truly joyful when I take a walk around the park or the forested roads beyond my neighbourhood and catch the moonrise, sunrise or sunset or just sit under the inky skies. They are one of the few things that make me feel alive (and connected to the world at large) these days and, of course, drinking copious amounts of coffee.

The days are longer now, summer is here, and the spring was virtually nonexistent. It is the oddest things we hold on to what connects us to our childhood selves. Badminton is just one of the many. The things we enjoyed as children and could perhaps enjoy as an adult, refresh some memories to help navigate the uncertain present.

The racquets continue to sit on the shelf gathering dust. The time for playing badminton is long gone the adult me thought but the kids in my neighbourhood beg to differ. You see, they don’t quite believe in the rules we so easily accept. They truly understand the meaning of carpe diem, and continue to play badminton seizing opportunities when there is no wind during hot windy days, and cool breezy evenings during this unprecedented summer. This is the stuff that optimism is made of, and which self help books can’t really teach. The pandemic was there last year too, and maybe we are getting better at dealing with our disappointments. Sometimes keeping our expectations in check has to be done when survival is the endgame.

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas holds a warm place in my heart because of the tradition from my school days. I went to a Christian school (people’s words not mine) and every year students take part in the Christmas play, which is basically staging the nativity scene. It was followed by a long Christmas vacation. One time I essayed the role of a sheep, and boy was I happy to be mask wearing animal on stage. Happiness didn’t cost much then.

One never has to go too far to look for a miracle. A stranger helped me meet Ruskin Bond which was my very own Christmas miracle. I could never have imagined meeting him in my wildest dreams that too in my city. It was a few days before Christmas and just like any other cold winter day. Somehow even crusty old me can’t call what happened a coincidence.

When I found out Mr Bond would be gracing a literary festival in the city I asked my sister to ask her friend who studied in the institution which was organizing it to inquire about the system of entry of non-school students. Her friend told her to tell me to gatecrash the event because it isn’t that big a deal. Let me tell you it was a big deal. Clearly her friend doesn’t read many books. The guard at the door wasn’t budging if you weren’t in a uniform or didn’t have a pass. I asked on the festival’s online page and wrote an email asking if there’s a way for people like us to meet and greet (their phrase) Ruskin Bond but there was no response. So I decided to land up at the venue (which was really far away) thanks to my parents who egged me on to give it a try in spite of my illness, and I did just that.

Why would a stranger, who has never seen you before in her life, cared if you meet (or didn’t meet) Mr Ruskin Bond. And what are the odds that the stranger was dressed like you and lived in the same locality as you. And someone who wore the adjective bookish like a badge of honour. It was like at first sight. She was wearing a kurti in the same shade of green I was, it was the same length as mine and we even had the same hair style. Had I been plump like I’m now and not leaner like I was then, we really would have looked like two peas in a pod. (I just wanted to use the phrase.) Not believable? But then truth is stranger than fiction. The similarities end here. Unlike my verbose self she prefers silence.

She helped me realize my lifelong dream of seeing Ruskin Bond in flesh and blood. Had I reached a minute before or a minute later, our paths wouldn’t have crossed. Should I call it destiny, fate, coincidence, serendipity or just my luck? I could have been a serial bomber for all she knew, wanting to go inside the venue to blow it up into smithereens but didn’t have a pass (obviously). Perhaps she could see in me the same thing which had brought her there, a love for the written word and the worlds created by Mr Bond and a fervent desire to hear the man whose words were synonymous with our childhood. Any interaction was the cherry on top of a richly iced cake. At the last minute when he was leaving I was egged on by another young friend to get my book signed. And that’s how I spoke two sentences to him. I wasn’t going because everywhere he was surrounded by hordes of school students or posing for group photographs. Mr Ruskin Bond exudes warmth and generosity. He actually had twinkling eyes that we read about in books. Larger than life yet down to earth. Yes I’m gushing. I was over the moon.

This holiday season spread good cheer, it is infectious. And when you feel too lonely, remember solitude and loneliness are two sides of the same coin.