So we’re finally heading towards the end of Term IV at XIMB. This was perhaps the fastest term of the four that we managed to clear till now. Not only was the work load way lighter than the first year, it was also the time when I enjoyed the best food and sports in Bhubaneswar till now!
Chapter 1 (Tennis)
We finally managed to complete the XTC Masters Series which was the first project of our brand new unofficial committee called XTC (X-Tennis Committee). It took us almost 12 days to complete the tournament. Many matches got delayed because of the rainfall. My last article on tennis ended during the initial stages of the tournament. Since then I played three more matches. The first one was against Sushant Berry in the quarterfinals. It was a tough day and an even more tougher match. The day started with me reading the 15 page long case study of one of our electives. The case was discussed over a 3 hr long session. I made a mistake of taking my medicine right before the start of the session and I was feeling so fucking dizzy in the class that after the first half an hour everything bounced over my head. I did the right thing by sitting on the first bench alongside the wall of the class. I put my head on the wall and closed my eyes plenty of times. You might be thinking how the hell can I do that sitting on the first bench? The best thing about that particular elective is that the prof stands in the middle of the class while steering the discussion. This makes it easier for the students sitting on the first two rows to doze off for short periods. This was the only way I managed to pass the time in that long and tiring class. Straight after the end of the session, I rushed off to the tennis court. It was a clear night sky, a perfect night to play a quarter final match. I called up my opponent and fixed the match. My opponent was Sushant. He happens to be my distant cousin. Now Sushant isn’t one of the regular tennis players. The last time he played a match (before his first round match) was 6 months back in February. In his first round match he had won 1-6, 6-1, 6-0. I couldn’t watch that match so I couldn’t figure out what exactly happened in the last two sets but I was thinking of finishing the match in under an hour…probably straight sets and then will end the tiring day with an early sleep. My head was still heavy but I was confident that I would be able to play as my legs were good to go. So we started the match after warming up for just around 15-20 min. I took the first game easily. After that things went down hill. My perfectly “topspinned” shots were responded by high & deep lobs. One lob was fine with me, two, three, four……..ten fucking lobs…..15..! I started losing my patience in the set. After hitting back 10 straight lobs from my opponent I was committing an unforced error every time I was trying to end the shot with a winner. This happened through the rest of the games. I was playing there on the court but wasn’t using my brain. I went with the flow of the lobs and finally ended up losing the set 1-6. I took a water break along with Sushant. We went to Cenderet complex right opposite the courts to have our drink. It was fucking humid that evening. Sweat was dripping like an open tap and was flowing its way to my grip which was becoming slippery slowly and slowly. My t-shirt felt glued to my body. We needed to refuel our body with water as frequently as possible in such conditions. During the drinks I asked Sushant about his strategy. He said that he was not able to hit proper shots so this was the best possible defence strategy he could come up with to survive in the match. We went back to the court and I did the best I could do – destroy his defence. The rallies lasted just 2-3 shots this time and before he could lob the fucking ball up in the air I was there charging towards the net and hitting a winner. I spanked his service towards the empty court. I literally squeezed his game and won the set 6-1. Perfect reply to the first set I thought. Then my opponent takes a 15 min break to get his water bottle from his hostel room. Then the game resets. Its back to square one. Sushant manages to bring back his good old strategy and takes a lead of 3-1 in the final set. I was clueless. The game I adopted in the second set was gone. The guy was 3-1 up I thought. Then started the long struggle back to 3-3. I started playing like him. He pushed a lob back to me I did the same to him in reply. In this way I managed to break his service till the end of the game. But then I couldn’t hold my own service till the end due to some mysterious circumstances. At one stage he was 5-4 up in the set and was serving for the match. I broke that. Then he was 6-5 up and serving for the match. I broke that too. Now we’re at 6-6. We were so exhausted that we were lying on the court. Karan who was starting his practice session before the start of his semis and was watching my game came up to me and reminded me about continuing to play the way Sushant was playing. That was the only fucking way I could win the match. The tie breaker started and I took a quick lead of 2-0. The confidence was seeping through my body. I managed to take a 6-0 lead and was staring at 6 match points. I hit a shot long and we were 6-1. And then I closed the tie breaker at 7-1. I won 1-6, 6-1, 7-6. The toughest game I had played on the XIMB tennis courts. It lasted 2 hours and 30 min and we were playing in perhaps the most humid conditions ever in the city. The one thing I realized in this match was that patience is everything. The biggest lesson I learnt in the match. You need to be patient in life in order to bear the fruits for which you’re working hard. I used to be an impatient guy (and am still is :). But this particular match taught me something which I would never forget. The result of the match hardly matters but the lesson does. Sushant played superb tennis. He did his best to stick to his game throughout the match. I was dead tired after the match. Exhaustion had crept to my legs which were helping me to run from one end of the court to another without any complaints. I had won the fucking match. The case study discussion was a distant dream when I was lying on my bed that night.
Chapter 2 (Badminton)
I have been playing badminton since last two months here at XIMB. The last time I had played the game was exactly an year back when I played for a week and before that was 4 years ago. We’ve formed a small bunch of players who play the game as frequently as possible. I’m improving my game under the guidance of the best badminton player at college, my friend and my neighbour – Vishal Jansuhia. I have been playing against him and also with him (in doubles) throughout the last couple of months. I have been studying the way he moves between the rallies, service, placements everything. He is a very clever player. His angles and placements are almost flawless. Despite being down with a leg injury since last one year and the threat of damaging it further on the court, nothing can stop him from playing his natural game. He can make the opponents run from end to end exhausting them like anything. It is under the eye of such a person that I’ve been trying to mould my game. And it is indeed showing results. My game has improved by tons. I can play with confidence. My feet movement has improved dramatically. This is something new for me. Moving swiftly on the badminton court. Badminton has indirectly improved my performance on the tennis courts too. I’m now able to reach the ball without much fuss on the court. I don’t tire quickly anymore. I can run around the court for three hours without getting a bit tired. Also, my ball placements on the tennis courts have improved because of the practice on the badminton court. It might sound weird reading two different games complementing each other. But its true.
Chapter 3 (Food)
The 4th term would go down the history books for the varieties of food that I have eaten. First two terms I didn’t venture out much, but starting the 3rd term I’ve been trying out different food joints. Rahul Fatnani and I’ve been eating chicken from different eateries. We discovered a place called Cafe Grillz located a kilometre from the college. We ordered grilled chicken from our room and got it delivered for free! Add to that they gave us a 20% discount on the bill. The chicken was tasty and was accompanied by onions & some masala. The entire combination was delicious. The quantity was huge! I’ve also tried the tandoori chicken from the place with Vishal. It was tasty too but was a little less spicier than we had expected. But it was filling nevertheless! I have also been trying out the different kinds of sandwiches from Subway. I wasn’t a big fan of Subway back in Ahmedabad. I’ve eaten there plenty times before but hardly ever browsed through the menu to try out different varieties of sub. I sampled through different sandwitches using different combinations of sauces. I found that the combination of sauces matter a lot in how the sandwich turns out in the end. I ate the same variety of sandwich using different combinations of sauces. The first time around I wasn’t impressed. But the second time I changed a couple of sauces and found the result to be very different and tasty! My favourite though is the “corn n peas” sandwich. It is not only amazingly delicious but also very refreshing. My stomach felt really good after finishing the sandwich!
We also found a new place to eat non vegetarian food near our college. Our friend and classmate Nafis recommended this place a couple of kilometers from the college which serves delicious meat dishes. The first time we tried the food there we were all speechless. We thanked Nafis profusely for recommended us the restaurant. We went there a second time last week and had several rounds of different preparations of chicken after that had the main course meal consisting of chicken once again eaten with the missi roti washed down with a bottle of thumbsup. The bill was the surprising part in the entire course. A stomach full of delicious food costed us not more than a couple of hundred rupees each! There are plenty of eateries lined up near the college. I have tried most of them. But this one was the best of them all! Apart from all these food, I’ve also been gobbling down pizzas once every month. We’re planning to head a little further towards the market place once the exams finish to sample out other delicacies. I got to know about one place which serves delicious South Indian dishes.
Vinayak gave us a beer treat last week. Rahul Fatnani recommended a local variant from his state called “Hunter”. We enjoyed drinking the brand. It wasn’t a very strong beer but still managed to give a good kick in the end! It tasted good. Not to be compared with Tuborg taste wise, but could easily give other brands a run for their money especially Kingfisher and the mighty Haywards!
Chapter 4 (Tennis)
Back to the tennis courts I completed two matches – the semis and the finals of the XTC Masters Series. My semis got delayed thrice as my opponent couldn’t complete his quarter-final match because of some reasons. The opponent of my opponent in the quarters finally gave a bye because of health reasons. I finally played against Braj in the semis. The match was a disappointing fare. I won it comfortably 6-0, 6-0 in hardly 45 min. But the thing which I didn’t like about the match was Braj’s form. His form is falling day by day. He isn’t able to replicate the same game which he plays while practising into his match play. During the match against Braj, instead of getting elated after winning a point, I was getting a feeling of pity towards him. Anyway, all of us hope to raise his game to a higher level before leaving the campus after 6 months!
I played my final against Vikas. I was expecting to play the finals against him. He defeated third seed Karan by 6-3, 6-4. On the day of the finals I had to go out for a field assignment. My group had to wait for the concerned person to arrive for almost 2 hrs and then spent another hour standing while getting the data from him. It was a very tiring evening! I came back and freshened up for a bit and rushed to the court to play the match. I wasn’t sure of my physique that evening as I had spent more than 3-4 hrs standing for the project with my group members. After warming up for 15-20 min I finally decided to give my nod for the match to start. The thing about the match was, although I was not able to produce the best of my ground strokes, I was able to guide the ball from my racquet to any corner of the court smoothly. My service was totally non-existent. I just stood there on the baseline and just tried putting more and more serves inside without adding any power or spin to it. The thing that surprised me the most was my physical fitness. I was able to run around the court and put the ball back into play. This helped me win the match comfortably 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in around 65 minutes. Vikas made a lot of mistakes and that shows on the scorecard. He lost his temper plenty of times during the match and even threw his racquet in anger which is something I can never ever think of doing how much bad I’m play. The scoreline would have been better had he kept his cool. Nevertheless, with more such tournaments to come in the future I expect him to improve many aspects of his game. It is all a part of the process and once the player passes through such a phase his confidence grows up ten folds. I read about Roger Federer and how he used to smash racquets around in his junior tour. One can’t even think of him doing the same at present!
Andy Roddick retired from professional tennis during the U.S Open. His 4th round match against Juan Martin Del Potro was his last professional match before he retired from the game at the age of 30.
It was a sad development for me. I remember since the age of 14 I have been a big fan of his game. I remember how I used to stick his cuttings and his posters from my issues of Sportstar magazine on the almirah and the walls of my room. I particularly enjoyed his exploits at Wimbledon and especially against Federer. Its sad that he couldn’t put any Wimbledon into his kitty because of Fedex, but nevertheless he did provide us one of the greatest encounters in tennis. I used to imitate his style of play while playing tennis back then. My service action and the forehand swing was exactly like his. My serves used to give a “blast” like sound! I remember how I used to wake up all night watching his matches especially at the U.S Open. His matches used to provide me the kick to study hard at school which I’ve missed during the course of my college years. I wish him good luck in life. He is a married man now. Time for him to start a new life!