Nadal has crashed out of Wimbledon, yesterday was my two year anniversary blogging on WordPress and since I’ve gained many new friends through the blog along the way, I thought I’d re-blog my very first post about Wimbledon, my father and me. Enjoy.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 father and it isn’t even at a sedate volume in the background. It is very much foreground volume but with very little actual TV viewing involved. Ever since I can remember, my fathers’ Sunday afternoon ritual has been 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.
If you try to change the channel, he’s on to you like Abroozi on an unguarded dustbin with chicken scraps. My dad’s got this sixth sense about remote theft. He’ll never agree that he was sleeping; he’ll insist he was watching the movie 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.
But back to tennis. My father is a dedicated tennis player himself and has been since 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 would be more comfortable on the WWE stage. So I’m left to watch on my own. Since I was a kid it was our family ritual to crowd round the 15 inch Grundig TV we had brought back from the UK in 1982 and watch the grainy Doordarshan telecast at some ungodly hour. There is just something unique about Wimbledon. Maybe it’s the 136 years of tradition, the whites, the propa Britishness of it. The British, like the Indians are experts at Tradition.
In 2006 when I was still living in London, my parents and I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to be at the first day of play at Wimbledon. 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. I’m not sure the sale of these tickets was kosher but I wasn’t about to get all moral on the matter. I can still remember going to this huge fancy house in a London suburb, the house littered with pictures of the Sardarji with everyone from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to tennis legend John Mcenroe. 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 emotionally – 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, stunned 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, finally able to worship at the high altar. The great man played for 30 minutes 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. Those ball boys do a remarkable job of bringing the covers on quick. That’s All, folks!
My mother and I left the stands to try to enjoy whatever else we could – the gift shop, the strawberries and cream. But my dad stayed on Centre Court, fixed to his seat in the rain, praying to the good lord above to resume play. But the sun played truant. His dream had been ceremoniously battered like the baseline on day 3. We couldn’t even get our £360 back because Wimbledon has 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.
Since 2009, after the retractable roof was installed on Centre Court, it has been bitter sweet watching Wimbledon. We were 3 years too early. I hardly ever talk about this with my father 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.