Friday, February 8, 2013

The Coronaviruses, Table Tennis and Michael Jordan

The common cold (also known as nasopharyngitis, rhinopharyngitis, acute coryza, or a cold) is a viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory tract which affects primarily the nose. Symptoms include coughing, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing, and fever which usually resolve in seven to ten days, with some symptoms lasting up to three weeks. Well over 200 viruses are implicated in the cause of the common cold; the rhinoviruses are the most common. Other viruses that could possibly cause such infections are the coronaviruses. Well, yes! I am suffering from common cold.

I have taken an off from work as I wouldn't be able to do the darning. I spent most of my day doing something really productive - Sleeping. Most part of the sleep cycle was with eye movements. When I woke up I realized that I was dreaming about competing in a table-tennis championship. Actually, I have indeed participated in one. Not exactly a championship. It was a tournament conducted by my employer at the Bangalore delivery center level. 

I vividly remember how I was feeling the night before the match. It was way back in August 2012. I was suffering from viral fever. No. Not the corona viruses. I did not Google about the virus back then. Let us say it is 'a viral fever' for this context. 

I was at Ooty and one of my colleagues called me up and said that the tournament begins the next day and that it begins with my match. I thought it was an honor in disguise. That is one of the ironic situations people whose name starts with 'A' face day-to-day. So, it failed to shock me. I booked my ticket to Bangalore for that night in spite of my illness. I was tight packed, wearing a woollen sweater and a woollen cap for the journey in the air-conditioned bus. It was 1 am, exactly 2 hours and 25 minutes from the commencement of the journey, I start sweating ferociously and shivering at the same time. On my mind, I started playing with my opponent, hitting smash after smash like a pro. Considering the fact that I got my hands on a Table Tennis bat for the first time in June 2012, it was very obvious to imagine being a pro. Well, I would imagine being a pro of any game even without playing or even knowing the intricacies of the game.

With that sweat and shiver I managed to reach Bangalore the next morning. I had a quick nap and the dream of hitting smash after smash and yet not managing to get a point made me flabbergasted and I eventually got rid of my nap. I got up and went towards the mirror and I sought Mr. Conscience’s advice:

You must at least score one point. Do not lose the match without scoring, Ok?
Yes. I must!
If you manage to score one point, you are definitely capable of scoring more. Do not lose in straight sets, Ok?
Well, Ok.
Be persistent. Do not give up no matter what!

You know what? Just play your game!

It was a Monday and so I got dressed up in formals and packed my bag with a Sports T Shirt, lowers and sports shoes. I suppose dressing up for the occasion is in my genes. I got it from my father. He insists on proper dress code and I have never seen him violate the same. I reached office and directly went to the TT room. Only the organizers were there and informed me that the match will commence once the opponent arrives. I started sweating again. This time it was because of nervousness. I changed to my sportswear and had a few knocks with the organizers. The opponent arrived about twenty minutes later. He was in so-called-formal clothing (he had ‘folded’ the sleeves of his shirt). At that moment I wished the organizers would send back my opponent for improper clothing and qualify me for the second round. Apparently, they did not. I and my ‘forgotten-name’ opponent had a few knocks and then we were all set for the Game.

It was a eleven – point -3 - set game. Each of the players gets to serve for two points alternately. My opponent won the toss and chose to serve first. He tossed the orange ball with his left hand and served with his right. The ball spun and had a good pace. I returned and then it hit the net. One love – said the referee. I did not know the technique to handle spin, then. I failed his next service too.  Then it was my turn to serve. I am a left hander and that played a crucial role in making the next two points in my favour. The game continued and we netted a few serves until it reached seven all. By now, we were accustomed to each of our serves and return techniques. It was my turn to serve and in two knocks he was able smash it away for another point. At this juncture, I was sweating profusely… aftermaths of gulping a paracetamol earlier that morning. I waited a while with my hands on my hip and wiped of my sweat. I made my next serve. Earning this point was not easy for both of us. The knock was going on and on. None of us wanted to give up. He tempted me with a slow return, went a few yards behind the table, imagining that I would smash it outside, I gave another slow return. It was so slow that the second bounce of the ball was so close to the net. I won that point. The fact is that I had never succeeded in smashing ever in those two months. So, I didn’t take a chance. It was eight, all. With that fascinating victory, I managed to take three points in a row and won the set 11 – 8.

We changed sides. I served him. Given the fact that he understood all the little techniques that I learned in the last two months, I lost point after point. I took occasional twenty second breaks between the services. My opponent won the set and the game’s score was 11 – 8; 4 – 11. The next and final set to decide the winner was to commence and while changing the sides I was thinking that I had done a more-than-expected performance in the game. I wanted to win but somewhere deep inside I wanted this game to end as early as possible, no matter what the outcome is.

The third set was quite tight with 4 – 6, then 6 – 6 and then 8 – 6. I was leading the set. I was totally exhausted. But then, I really wanted to win. It was 10 – 9. One point and I will be the winner. Apparently, my opponent too wanted one point that could be a game changer. By now, my colleagues and the other team players were at the court. The room seemed full. Everybody’s eyes were on the movements of the orange ball.  And… my opponent gets his point!


He served me. I didn’t know what happened. The referee says:

Advantage Forgotten-name!

Now, it was my chance to serve. And I netted the ball.

I lost. But I wasn’t sad. I was wearing a Ram-Smile. I saw the scores and I was extremely elated.

11 – 8; 4-11; 10 -12!

Definitely not bad when compared to what I thought. I almost forgot to shake hands with the winner. After congratulating the winner I went and hugged my colleagues. Some of the TT pros gathered there told me that it was a good game and my performance was really good considering my experience with the game.

Later that evening, I happened to see a poster of Michael Jordan in the Internet that says:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.

I’ve lost almost 300 Games.

26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.

I’ve failed over and over again in my life.

And that is why I succeed!”

I still have 299 Games and 25 shots to be missed, I thought.