|The Assam Gas Company Campus, Duliajan|
|If you look hard enough, you can see the net of the badminton court through the entrance|
That being said, Niki was the best player in my age group. Although he was relatively shorter than the rest, his agility, stamina and power would more than make up for his height, taking him far above the rest. He had a tenacity, a tenacity to win a game, no matter what position he was in- even in the doubles. That's true. I became champion just once in my life, that too in doubles, and no prizes for guessing who I was paired with.
I am not gonna tell you how I won it once. I am gonna tell you a different story- how I lost it. It was back when I was in the eighth grade, perhaps one of the last times I played until the academic pressure subdued the badminton player inside me (and millions of other kids of this great nation). It was a mixed doubles competition, and I was clubbed with Punam, and Niki with Natasha, in the finals. It was a fair competition, with a little disadvantage to us, because of the tenacity of course.
Punam was agile, and had considerably high stamina. On the other hand, I had quick reflexes, but was pretty much on the slower side. However, we did make a good team, losing the first game, but winning the second (it was a best of three.) We continued the momentum in the third game and were leading 10-4 (yes, I remember the score well), when something happened. We knew very well Niki was tiring, but you could never be sure, he becomes all quiet during a game, making it impossible to say what is going on. One moment, he struggles to play a shot, you blink your eye and he's at the other end of the court.
Anyways, Natasha burst into tears- girls are unpredictable, right? But isn't that how kids are? I was certainly shocked and had no idea what to do. If she refused to play, a walkover would guarantee us a win, but that would be a cowardly way to win, ain't it? Niki, with all his ego, hardly even talked to her then. If I hadn't done anything, considering the situation, we would have won. However, we decided to talk to her rather, and after a five, maybe ten minute break, the match resumed. The break was everything we did NOT need. The momentum shifted. The break was all that that was needed to distract us. I believe, we did not even score a point after the break. Needless to say, they won.
I am not really sure how to describe the aftermath. Someone told me that this is what happens when you try to be too good. True, I had never been so close to victory and lost! I was accustomed to defeat, and took it well, but that one match would always come back to me and force me to think- What if... So close, yet so far. We were all kids then, and I certainly don't hold any grudge towards anyone. It was a lesson for me, but sometimes, I still wonder what exactly it taught me.
I came back home that night with a lot of excitement, and I must have told this story to my parents, grandparents and cousins lots of times, but I can never grow tired of it. I wonder what if we had been a bit more stable, what could have happened... I guess some things are just meant to be cherished in your mind.