The only sport I watch is tennis. No wait, correction. The only tennis I watch is Wimbledon. I could be co-opted in to watching the other grand slams but I’m very much unlike my father who will not only watch but actively seek out any tennis match being played and telecast anywhere in the world. Even the lowliest of tournaments will not stop him from having it on in the background and protest dramatically if anyone tried to change the channel. It would be at that precise moment, when someone reached for the remote, that he would portend something very decisive was about to happen. Background television is a big thing with my dad. And it isn’t even sedately volumed in the background, it’s very much foreground volume but with very little actual TV viewing involved.
Ever since I’ve known my dad his Sunday afternoon ritual is to have a few cold beers, eat well and slump in to a bean bag in front of the telly with some old barely recognisable Hindi movie on, which he claims to have seen back in the day. Ten minutes in to this “classic”and he’d be in deep sleep. As a child these movies bored the crap out of me – they still do. But try to change the channel on him and he would wake up like he’d been buzzed by an electric shock. He’s got this sixth sense about remote theft. He would never agree that he was sleeping but insist he was watching and then proceed to fall asleep again. These were the days when households only had one TV. Now I guess there are second and third TVs – one for patti to watch Khanna Khazana, even one for the maid to watch Dinakaran sermon re-runs. The kids are probably watching stuff on the tinterweb or their 3G phones.
But back to tennis. My father is a dedicated tennis player himself and has been from his college days. He’s the kind of addict who takes his racket with him on conferences and holidays just in case he can get a game in somewhere. And he’s a good player too.
It’s Wimbledon season now and I’ve married a man who hates watching all sports (except for WWE women’s wrestling) including tennis. He can’t see why a large dark green wall surrounding a light green lawn with a fluorescent yellow ball being bashed around could be entertaining. Not to mention the grunting women who he thinks were all men at some point and would be more comfortable on the WWE stage. So I’m left to watch on my own. In fact I only order the sports channel for one month during Wimbledon. That’s Rs.37 very well spent I’d say. Since I was a kid I’ve been watching Wimbledon. My dad would make us watch the grainy Doordarshan telecast at some ungodly hour on the Grundig TV we had brought back from the UK in 1982. It had a little plastic “stick” to tune the channels. No one knew I used to clean my ears with it!I was only aged 3! So I guess watching tennis, particularly Wimbledon is a ritual. There is something unique about Wimbledon. Maybe it’s the 125 years of tradition, the whites, the propa Britishness of it. The Brits, like the Indians are experts at Tradition.
I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to be at the first day of play at Wimbledon in 2006. My parents had come to visit me in London so we shared the moment together. It is notoriously impossible to get tickets and I just couldn’t see us queuing up or camping out overnight to get in. But where there is a way my father’s will shall prevail. He managed to score tickets from some guy he knew in a tennis club in Amritsar who knew a Sardarji linesman at Wimbledon. These were not just any tickets – these were Centre Court and Court 1 tickets. These are reserved for corporate honchos, celebrities, the good and the great and I guess linesman and Wimbledon staff. So not for us mere mortals. Technically, selling these was illegal but I wasn’t about to get all moral on the matter. The colossal sum paid, I couldn’t believe that my father’s childhood dream was coming true. After all that your parents have given you – materially and emotional – it is truly humbling to see them happy, to see them experience a long lived dream.
We made it to the hallowed grounds, bursting with awe. We settled in to our dark green seats, amazed at just how huge the arena is. We watched the great Federer himself walk out on to Centre Court. I could sense my dad shaking with piety like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert. The man played for half and hour and then it rained. It poured. Let me tell you, Wimbledon is really depressing when all you can see is rain pelting down on the covers. I must say those ball boys do a remarkable job of bringing the covers on quick. Show’s over, folks!
My mother and I left to try to enjoy what else we could – gift shop, strawberries. But my dad stayed on Centre Court, fixed to his seat in the rain, praying to the good lord above to stop the rain so play would resume. But the sun played truant. His dream had been ceremoniously battered like the baseline on day 3. We couldn’t even get our 360 pounds back because the cheeky people at Wimbledon have ruled that if there is at least 30 minutes of play you don’t get a refund. But for 30 minutes my father felt like he had made it to heaven and marched proudly through the pearly gates. I no longer live in London so sadly I cannot attempt to get tickets for my dad to see Wimbledon for at least a whole day.
Five years later with the new roof on Centre Court, it’s actually bittersweet watching Wimbledon now. We were 5 years too early. I hardly ever talk about this with my dad because I think it still hurts. It’s a great man who can accept one’s fate, who can take 30 mins of a lifetime’s ambition and be content with just that. As great a man as I think my father is I’m pretty sure he’s still plotting to get tickets to any grand slam in the world.
Sardarji linesman, here we come.