I am an avid sportsperson. Or, at least, was one. Now I just look it, which isn’t very flattering, especially when people ask you if you are a swimmer, not coz you have toned body, but because you have broad shoulders. Erm. Thanks. I bet I would be flattered- if I were a man! For years I have longed to be part of that delicate, petite brigade of women whom men instantly fall allover themselves to protect. No such luck. All I get a resounding thump on my back with a ‘You OK, there, mate?’ At least I could take pride in my athleticism and ability to excel in most sport I competed in until disaster struck in Std X.
I was a freshie in my school- this was one of the most reputed schools in Chennai, where being admitted to the school- that too for the tenth grade was like winning the lottery.
Well, apparently part of the induction process into the school system included throwing the fresher into every single activity organized by the school, irrespective of talent and inclination. So there I was, being tossed into dramatics (possibly history’s worst Portia), quizzes (youngest member, hence all suggestions, even for the right answers, being ignored) and sports.
Sports included a whole host of track and field events as well as team sports. So my sports day went something like this:
I, having qualified for the 100mts was waiting for my finals, when I hear my number being called out.
I trot over, a bit puzzled to my coach to find out what new faux pas I had now unwittingly committed when he says- ‘Go… its your turn…’ ‘My turn? For what??’ I ask, still totally in the dark. ‘For the jump, of course!’ says the coach- talking slowly, like he would to a favorite idiot child. ‘Jump? Jump where? I haven’t signed up for any jumping.’…says me. Coach nods sagely and retorts- ‘I know. I signed you up. You have good legs.' As if that should explain all! All I could gather from this drivel was that in more civilized societies, that comment would border on sexual harassment, and I was supposed to be jumping into a wet sandpit at the word go. ‘But… but I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how!’ I protest. Coach brushes these arguments aside with ‘tchah! What is there to know? You run very fast, and take off and jump as far as you can. You have good legs.’ He reiterates. Riiiight. Of course, if it was so darned easy, it wouldn’t be an Olympic sport now, would it? And what has good legs got to do with it? Cindy Crawford wasn’t jumping into every stray pit of sand she saw, was she?
Anyways, too dazed to protest, I do the requisite run-up-and-take-off-and-land-as-far-as-you-can. Through dumb luck, I not only qualified, I landed up on the podium! Hmm.. maybe there’s something to this good legs theory after all.
Spurred by his recent success at this wild experiment, the coach goes beserk and puts me in every other track and field event as well! The next one of course was short-putt! (‘You have broad shoulders’ was coach’s explanation for that one). Sadly there was a bit of miscommunication on coach’s part. All he said was to ‘heave the ball as far as possible’ what he omitted to mention was the direction in which this heaving was supposed to occur. The result was that my putt shot off into orbit, scared a few crows flying over the field, narrowly missed a low-flying airplane, and landed with an almighty ‘thud’ six inches from where it had begun its journey. After this disaster, my name was hurriedly scratched off the javelin throw, and I was sent to the track where I could inflict no more harm.
The worst humiliation was yet to occur, though, when I discovered my name signed up for basketball. Reason- I’m tall. Well, they had me there.
On the day of the first match, we’re being briefed about the rules of the game. To top it off, we’re duly informed that we’re up against state level players. Great! This should be fun!
As the warm-up for the match begins, the only instructions the coach gives us- ‘I don’t expect you to win. But please, all I ask is One basket!’ Hmmm… inspiring. I’m sure Larry Bird could take a few pointers. Let the freak show begin!
Five minutes down, I’m battered, bruised, confused and exhausted! No one told me there would be this much of running- especially when you don’t have the ball in your possession. So as the coach calls for a time-out ten minutes later, I beg to be substituted. Since I look like I would be in immediate need of CPR any second, he puts in another reluctant player. Thirty seconds and half a breath later, the panicky coach yells at me to go in again. ‘You’re the one they’re committing the most fouls on! At least this way, we get somewhere close to the basket!!!’
We lost that match to a glorious score of 36-2. The only basket made by us was for a foul committed off me. Coach was so happy he wept. We were treated to a lavish feast of ice creams. And though some of us never fully regained to use of our legs again, we were bigger heros that our boys’ team- which actually won the tournament.