Monday, July 06, 2009

Roger That!

I can recall watching the Sampras Agassi showdown in Wimbeldon, back when i was in school. Which happened before humanity discovered the joys of Twittering, Social Networking and sold it's collective privacy to online marketing. But i digress.

Watching the match, i could feel the goosebumps on my skin, and a sinking awareness that i was witenssing something that was transcending the much abused "great" and settling into the abode of the "Immortal". While the tennis on that day was nothing short of genius, it was the poetry that it inspired on the next day, that etched the occasion into the forefront of memory. One particular line still brings about a smile to my face- " Today, Pete Sampras did not just play tennis. He walked on water."

Roger Federer is one of the unfortunate men to inspire awe, appreciation, respect even. But never love. Just like Michael Schumacher, Sir Alex Ferguson, Lennox Lewis, or even Pete Sampras at the peak of his powers,  Federer is a sporting champion. But not a People's champion.

Perhaps it has to do with envy. Envy that singes most of us, when we see examples of God's gifts seperating the tremendous from the common. We like to cherish heroes who give us hope that those hailing from our world can ascend to the heavens. We cheer heroes who seem to carry the same flaws, suffer from the same anxiety and moments of doubt that plague our daily lives and act as excuses, holding us back.

And when sheer genius appears, slapping our complacence and laughing at our idiotic beliefs, we react with anger, envy and derision.

Yesterday's match was one of the greatest displays of tennis you could have ever found. A true sporting afficionado would not have held it to be below the drama and skill of last years epic battle. There seems to be a unanimous opinion that this match simply didn't have enough "Attacking" tennis. Hey, it wasn't for the lack of effort from either player, who spilled their guts and then some, on the court.

The reason why most people still seem to put down Roger Federer ("he hasn't achieved a Grand Slam like Rod Laver!, "Hey, Rafael Nadal owns the guy! Let him come back and then we'll see!") is because he laughs at the time honored theories of how to succeed in tennis.

The man makes his tennis effortless, which somehow, to the majority of the public, doesn't seem exciting or magical enough. We were mesmerised by the speed of Roddick's serve. Yet were baffled by how 50 of Federer's serves went unreturned. We keep hearing about how good his forehand and backhand is, how he uses angles and dips the ball into his opponent. But none of that craftsmanship is visible to us.

No matter how many grand slams he goes onto win, some of us "Sporting Gurus" will continue to lay doubts on his legacy and place in the pantheon of sporting gods.

Federer could aptly care less. While Sampras did walk on water all those years ago, Federer has created a symphony on the lawn court, with the racquet as his instrument. We who are deaf, are yet to hear the magic of his lute.

The Return of the Native

Almost a month has passed, since my return to my homeland. A return that had conjured thousands of scenes in the confines of mind. A passage that i thought would mark an evolution in my thoughts and approach. A journey that i'd eagerly anticipated & somewhat worried over.

And now? All i can think of is -"For this? You devoted the focus of your cortex, towards this?"

You know, it's funny how most travel stories always center around the disenchantment of a traveller when he returns home. But i think we always get it wrong. It's not the wandering and now returning native who finds his home "Alien". Oh no, it's the home that's moved on and made peace with his absence.

I spent a week, furiously noting down what i felt were brilliant notes on what exactly is wrong with the system of our country. The noise, the crowds, the chaos, public displays of Litterage (PDL anyone?), random chaos, failure to provide basic infrastructure etc. You know the routine. It's happened to all of us, when the fabled "US Relative" makes a visit and starts on the "This country" rap.

But two quick trips to different cities have proved to be a boon. Travel is a gift bestowed on us, that we seldom appreciate or indulge in. Yet it presents us the only opportunity, to hear our thoughts, while in transit. It gives us refuge from worries of the present, regrets of the past and fearful anticipation of the future. 

I realised that India can function with all it's weaknesses, accomodating the dreams, desires, schemes, ambitions and anger of a billion people.Yes, things are wrong. Terribly wrong here. And salves for our festering wounds still seem far away on the horizon. But at the end of the day, the grumbling voice of one, is lost in the uproar and cries of a billion. A system that somehow seems to work, trudge towards progress at a pace that would grant a snail a gold medal at the Olympics.  

A system that can be summed up in two phrases : "So What?" and "No, it's not possible".

And you know what, i've settled into the movement of the city, adjusted to the roar of my people, sweating like the rest of us, prostrating, cursing, resisting, screaming as we go about trying to be better than the person sitting next to us.

I know what you're thinking: "Yeah yea. So you've returned from the Gulf. So What?"