(Up)Set the pace

A few months after I first hit a celluloid ball as a pre-teen, I believed I was ready for tournament play and entered a day-long table tennis event at the YMCA in Hyderabad. I drew a bye in the first round and, for some reason, my second round opponent did not turn up and I was in the quarterfinals without even working up a sweat.

Then I came face to face with ground reality, losing in straight games. I could not go near the table for a long time, preferring the comfort of team sports like basketball and cricket. At least, there would be others to share the agony of a lost game. The blow would be softened.

Defeat is always hard to swallow and any show of grace at that point of time can only be because society expects us to be gallant in defeat. Deep down, we are simmering and sulking, seething and shuffling.

Yet, we also realise that there are things we control and others that we don’t. And defeat – in sport or in life – is not always the result of one’s own action. Though you may identify your weakness and work on ironing it out, you find that your opponent has also rival has also got better, not letting grass grow under his or her feet.

But of course, sport teaches us that not two circumstances are really the same. And, I believe that life is not very different. It throws up different situations all the times and it is very rarely that one is likely to confront a similar situation. On the journey of life, even if one keeps in touch with the roots all the time, nobody ever revisits a place.

Let me now take up the question what I would have done differently every time I have been defeated. Truth to tell, I have never felt defeated. From the time I slunk away from the table tennis tournament, the tail firmly tucked away, I have realised that every victory is a defeat and, conversely, each loss is a conquest as well. All setbacks teach us that our confidence in our own skills should never diminish, our faith in ourselves should not ever come down, no matter what.

Life, all said and done, is not merely black and white. It comes with many shades of gray, some sublime, some stark and others shocking. Indeed, life is a challenge that has to be accepted and lived rather than a puzzle that has to be solved and junked. There is joy in living life, accepting the waves and the troughs as mere imposters.

Jan 13 2005