Posts Tagged ‘Chennai’

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Life has this unique wont of sliding up opportunities your way. Maybe for that precise reason I was deliberately thrown onto the blazing chessboard of Chennai. To witness an ATP Tennis tournament. Whaaatttt?

Yes it happened. Strangely I had never thought about that before. Being in Chennai had its perks and I made the most of it. When I realized the tournament occurred every year, specifically when the year is succumbing to its final breaths, I just knew I had to witness an ATP match.

When I looked up to the Singles draw, I wasn’t at all disappointed as the name of Stanislas Wawrinka dangled up there. Top seeded Wawrinka had bagged one Chennai Open title before. Even though big names like Youzhny and Fognini were in the tournament, I was still counting on the Swiss to win the tournament, owing to his extremely impeccable form that year.

We decided to watch the final, even though we waited impatiently for the big day to come. Wawrinka slid smoothly into the finals. In the other draw, Edouard Roger-Vasselin made the cut. Their clash was inevitable.

Like first time of everything, my first World Class Tennis match too had thrill written all over it. We came early and grabbed our seats pronto. We had arranged front seats in order to stay as close as humanely possible to where the action took place. Even though the seats weren’t comfy, we were too charged to notice. Witnessing the court for the first time, gave me Goosebumps. It was glittering flawless. I was so excited. The atmosphere was sheer breathtaking. The climate was surprisingly cool. Clouds were bountiful as they overshadowed the punishing sun during its final hours.

My heart pounded faster as my eyes riveted itself to the entrance. Lo! They trickled down to the court, both remarkable players, Stan and Roger. We were on our feet clapping and cheering for the finalists. Within few hours, we would be doing the same for a champ. As Stan stretched and Vasselin fiddled with his racquet, the coin toss happened. Vasselin took to serve and the game commenced.

I hadn’t seen any sports player up this close. With Vasselin owning the first game, we saw Wawrinka heading to our side with 4-5 balls in his hand. He was mesmerizing. I had heard so much about his single-handed backhand and boy it was all true. When he smashed the ball single handedly down the court, time stood still. It was just so perfect. The noise that it made – utter screams of the ball gushing down the opponent’s court, boy it was music to my ears. Even though he fumbled with the game, he managed to grasp hold of it. The rest of the games that followed swayed through pizzazz. Both were equally good in the first set, until the time Stan broke Vasselin. He went on to bag the first set 7-5.

Vasselin’s game was really promising. With powerful smashes, volleys and excellent returns Roger made sure he earned rapt and apt attention. But Wawrinka was simply absorbing. With screams of “C’mon Stan” I made sure, his adrenaline was buffed up. So made sure a child’s voice that rang up the SDAT stadium every time the game paused. The second set turned out to be cake for Stan. He grabbed the championship point pretty soon by taking up a quick 5-2 lead. With a thunderous ace, he called the trophy his. He bagged the title in straights. Happens to be his second Chennai Open title.

We were all up on our feet, cheering and hooting for our winner. Whilst the arrangements for presentation ceremony began, we saw Charu Sharma primping what was left of his hair, at the podium. Someone next to me shouted, “Sharmaji!” Charu at once turned towards us. The guy said, “Looking good!” Charu nodded acknowledging the compliment as he prepared himself for the presentation. Right after Wawrinka lifted the trophy and the presentation bit ended, I shouted at the top of my voice, beckoning Stan to our side, for autograph. I was the loudest. I screamed out loud, then later yelped. “Stan! Stan!” But he didn’t budge. Probably because of the commotion in the back of his head, he was compelled to turn around once. He waved and went on to sign autographs for the lucky ones near the entrance, while everyone clogged him with placards and papers. Whilst he succumbed to the crowd, all we were left with a sour taste and that disappointed look on our faces.

The next match was doubles. Croatians Dragnja and Pavic were up against Brunstrom and Nielsen. We sat through the clash as well. The energy of the match was breathtaking. It was so quick and agile that it got over within a blink of an eye, so to speak. Brunstrom and Nielsen lifted the trophy by defeating the Croatian force 6-2, 4-6 (10-7).

When we were about to call it a day in the midst of the presentation for doubles, I insisted on staying for a while. My placard was grieving for an autograph. I looked at Charu near the nets. I shouted at the top of my voice. “Charu! Charu!” My voice was drowning in the ruckus all around. I kept at it. “Sharma! Sharma!” He didn’t seem to notice. Then once I went, “Sharmaji” This made Charu turn towards me. I signaled with my marker for an autograph. He nodded. I couldn’t believe he was actually coming towards me. He crossed all those hurdles (basically people intersecting him) from net to our corner and reached our side. I at once took out my hand saying, “Big fan!” He shook it acknowledging politely. Whilst he signed our placards, I looked at him with a smile. I was genuinely happy. My placards weren’t bleeding anymore. I had a celebrity right next to me. A big name in the Sports world. I saw guys next to me offering cameras to people below, just to grab pictures with him and Charu complying. It occurred to me to do the same. I slipped in, “You are doing a great job” as he turned around to smile for the camera. He said thank you to me and moved on to get his pictures taken with anyone who insisted.

Overall it turned out to be an amazing experience, with Charu providing us the icing we needed. As we were about to leave, I looked at Charu Sharma for the last time, as he posed for a photograph with a local ball boy, and I said to my friend with a smile on my countenance, “What a great guy!”

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My reflection stared hard into my eyes. It was blurry, for tears began forming up. It said, “Don’t cry! Don’t cry! Be brave!” But I wouldn’t listen. I don’t listen to my reflection. I listen to nobody when my glass is brimming. All I remembered him saying was, “I saw my father in my room.”

A dear friend of mine lost the most important part of his life. His father. Tragedy hit him like a bullet. It was bound to collide as days of suffering suggested. He knew it. Things were not looking good for the past few months. He just hung on. With hope. He kept looking. He kept up his search. Solutions weren’t solutions. They were mere reflections of the bitter truth. Death – The bitter end to everything that breathes.

I wasn’t aware. For the past few weeks, he ran from clinics to hospitals, looking for every ray of light that read hope, with his unabated diligence to set things right and to make his dad stand on his feet again. I had no idea. Whilst I was busy living my life to the fullest, he was busy saving a life from waning. I wasn’t there at all. I was not even in the background. Estranged.

When things got serious I contacted him, only to be a part of his dismay. He mentioned how serious his father’s condition had become. Uncle was, in fact, in the hospital. When my friend came back home, he said he saw him there, standing in his room. He broke into tears on the phone. I didn’t know what to say. My tears simply connected his. It was a tough moment for him. I knew. I was there mentally. Standing next to him consoling, trying to flow with his tears.

I just felt impotent. Nothing I could do to reverse the event. I am no doctor. I am no God. I am nothing. I just felt so helpless. So powerless. Without an undo button. Yet, I reckoned all my options. Made couple of calls to see if miracles existed. Preposterous solutions came up. At such an hour, he was ready to hear anything. I was ready to believe anything. Whatever worked.

The next morning his dad passed away. I couldn’t react. He wrote to me, consumed by profound grief, how he thinks his dad would return anytime, that he had just gone out. How he might show up just like that and bring smiles to their faces!

I am aware how his house would be speaking of gloom. How it would reek of pain for days! How deafening the silence would be! How crazy the minds would think! How tasteless the food would seem! How sad their happy would be! I am well aware. I can empathize it all. For a moment, there is nothing alive. For days, weeks and months, nobody actually lives.

So many sleep-deprived nights. So much care. So much trouble taken. So many tears spent contemplating. So many nerves broken apprehending. All for nothing. All for naught.

I want to be a part of his misery. Just to be there. To be able to tell him that I am there. To hold his back upright. To see to it that he doesn’t fall. To listen to his hollow voice. To understand. To empathize. To let him dry out all his tears. To cry with him. To die with him. But I have these walls around me that wouldn’t let me leave. Had I been in a better room, I would have stood up and left without a second thought.

I remember when a dear friend faced a similar mishap back in my college days. I remember him telling me how he felt. While I listened to him, I cried incessantly. All his aspiration for his father, all his dreams that he knitted alongside him, all the future he created together, how it all shattered in a jiffy! Just like that! Life’s way of telling you – it is evanescent.

Sometimes I wonder what makes this life so short. What defines our confinements? Why can’t we live and just live? Why is there grief when somebody leaves? Why do we miss them when they do? What makes our strength to go on, so feeble? What changes our conviction to live? Death always screws things up. Why is He so jealous of the living?

I called home. I cried and cried for my friend’s loss. What bothered me more was the fact that I couldn’t be with him during his desperate times. What tore me to pieces was the fact that I couldn’t be a friend indeed.

I surmise, eventually, it doesn’t really matter that I made up my mind to visit. That eventually, I decided to be at my friend’s side but my plans didn’t pan out. That I cried for his loss. That I already became a shoulder when I heard the bad news. That I told my parents how bad I wanted to be with him. However, what matters in the end is, I wasn’t there when he needed me the most.

As I ramble across the shores of Chennai, waves look sad. They wouldn’t even reach my feet. They are silently aware of a great loss. They are trying to pay their tributes. My heart reaches out to Uncle’s soul. I just want him to understand how much his family fought for him. How hard they tried! How they spent sleepless nights and tearful days to bring him to life again! They did not fail. They did not succeed. His resistance was simply too strong.

My friend’s loss is shattering. I just hope nobody on this planet has to go through something tragic like that. Death makes living impossible. It has to learn to let people live without it.

But most importantly, ‘we’ have to learn to live around it.

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All this time I have been chasing tails, trying to fit in. This new place is filled with alien faces. I do have company of known countenances. Yet I feel, as if I have been lifted up deliberately and put into another chess board altogether. I didn’t ask for this. So why was I chosen? O wait! I just got the answer to that, fate likes to do me.

I have been taught to survive in the worst. (Pfft……as if I was in the CIA) The heat is punishing. Chennai isn’t the land for the timid. I have been summoned here for a purpose, I surmise. My life’s story was supposed to have this twist. Albeit I never saw that coming, I am still glad my life isn’t stagnant. I embrace this inevitable change, just with a frown. I know good is what ousts from everything I have ever experienced. At least I like to believe so. I think it is so far so good, since I have made it this far. I just trust the goddamn guts of my writer who knows what he is doing. (O he doesn’t have a clue, does he?)

Though dumped into this punishing city, I have managed to pull myself up. Most of the people here are friendly. The rest have kept their friendly fire on. Hindi, my mother tongue, all of a sudden, is like music to my ears. The minority from the North use it and I am glad they do. They somehow make this place a better place to live in for homesick guys like me.

Population here is dense. The way just like any other metropolitan city prefers it. But buses here remind you of a famous internet meme of a fully packed bus insinuating a WinRar file. Yep, I am talking about the Bus.rar file. Yeah it is some sight. It reassures you that you are still in India. I am not sure whether I used a sarcasm there.

Food, another entity that constantly badgers you and keeps reminding you of the fact that you need to be homesick, could be a little bit more delicious here, but is still edible considering our rapacious Northern palates. We have resorted, as of now, to some of the Northern food caterers who actually manage to succeed about 40% in satiating our Northern demands. Like I said, so far so good.

Places of attraction here bum us out as the city is vast. And by vast I mean ‘holy-crap-on-the-crackers’ large. We become victims to slumber as soon as we start our sojourn. We keep regretting our decision even when we are about to reach our destination. Sometimes we wonder if we could make it back alive. It is only when we return that we decide to postpone all our future ventures till we own a better mode of making our commute. This has happened numerous times now. Yet we never learn.

The heat would simply blow your mind away. It just simply gives you in the ass. No doubts in that department. No wonder everyone calls the city one of the hottest in the country. It is however a little delightful when it is raining. But I haven’t seen proper cats and dogs falling from the skies yet.

Whatever the city might have in store for me, or fate, for that to matter, I just know I am going to nail it. I have a bigger life in preparation. I cannot whine for the smaller trivial stories. I am prepared. I have donned my armor as well as that formidable smile that scare children. (Yeah they totally pee their pants!)

The fact would always stare back at you fate. Yeah you listening there bud? I will be prepared for the worst and be ready for the best. I will always be my hero in this life and in every other lives to come. I will see you at the other end. Bring it on life!