The Ball Boy from Basel

“When you’re good at something, make that everything.”
– Roger Federer

As someone who has played sports for a better part of my life, I have come to realize how important sports is and how it teaches you things that no textbook ever can. I played different kinds of sports during my school life and in parts during my college life. I have been part of teams and have played individual sports as well through which I got to learn the best of both worlds. But this one is not to highlight the importance of sports in my life or in general, I’ll whip something up for that later. This is about the man with the single backhand.

When I was in school, Cricket was the only sport I enjoyed watching and that was the only sport I watched because of the time constraints and my attention span, that’s where my love for No.7 started (Cricket fans will understand). I used to sit with my grandfather and as both of us used to be emotional spectators (I still am), we would watch the game and experience everything, from stress to anger to happiness in those 3-4 hours. But, neither of my sisters were or are a fan of sports as I was or am but they do accompany me at times when I am praying in front of the TV for India to win. Coming back to the matter at hand, I was in 8th Standard when I first saw a lawn tennis match, courtesy to my elder sister, she asked me, nonchalantly, Hey, come and see this match, you might enjoy this too and 9 out of 10 times, I don’t listen to the things she says, that was the one time I did and boy, did I enjoy it! Two gentlemen, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were playing on a grass court at a tournament called Wimbledon and it was the 2008 finals. That was the first match I ever saw of lawn tennis and I sat through the 4 hours 48 minutes of it. While my sister was and is in awe of Nadal, I was mesmerized by the man who lost that match, but still won for me, Roger Federer.

Strokes of Genius: Riveting documentary on Rafael Nadal & Roger Federer's  eternal rivalry
https://www.republicworld.com/sports-news/tennis-news/strokes-of-genius-riveting-documentary-on-rafael-nadal-and-roger-federers-eternal-rivalry.html

For anyone who is unaware of who Roger Federer is,
Roger Federer was born on 8 August 1981 in Basel, Switzerland. He is a Swiss professional tennis player and is ranked No. 8 in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). He has won 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles and has won 103 ATP singles titles. He has been felicitated with the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award 13 times. He has also won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award a record five times. These numbers, though, do not even begin to capture the magnanimous player Roger Federer is.

Having limited access to television and mobile phone at the time I was in school, I only saw a couple of matches but by the time I was in 12th standard, I was following the four Grand Slam titles and the Masters 1000 events and I enjoyed games of other players too but it was Federer’s matches in which my heart and mind were invested. It’s not an obsession though, It’s admiration. I was not aware of lawn tennis at an early age so I missed his ponytail hair days when he used to smash rackets and was allegedly said to be arrogant in his demeanor. By the time I started to watch the game, he was the fan’s favorite and someone who breezed through post-match presentations.

My father is not a sports aficionado, but one day when I was watching one of the Federer matches and he was struggling through the match, my father saw me and asked me why are you so sad? I said, Pa, Federer is losing to which he replied, Okay, let me sit with you and help him win, which might sound funny to you but then, I explained the rules to him that day and to this day, he sits with me to watch his matches. In fact, my whole family sits and watches Federer play. My younger sister, who doesn’t even enjoy lawn tennis, was heartbroken when Federer lost in the quarters this year. So, it’s a family affair now.

https://sports.ndtv.com/tennis/wimbledon-2021-roger-federer-delighted-to-play-in-front-of-passionate-crowd-2477993

I wanted to write this pre-Wimbledon but I am glad that I am writing it post because I along with millions were lucky enough to see him contest again at the 2021 Wimbledon championships. I am not going into the details of his win-loss records or his rivalry or whether he is the greatest player of all time or not. That has been written about way too much for anyone’s good. I want to talk about the player that he is. I am not someone who has any technical knowledge of the game so, as a layperson, simply put, Federer plays majestically. He is not a perfect player, in any sense, and there are flaws in his game which he has continuously worked upon and will keep working upon. But, the way he glides on the court like his legs are made of feather, his footwork which is just optimum for the shot needed, his butterfly arch when he hits that single-handed backhand, the racket speed he generates just by keeping the tension in his wrist so light, the 8 types of serves he has in his arsenal which baffles the opponents at times, the balance he has on the court which comes from the fact that he doesn’t run blindly, the effortless drop shots he makes, the volleys that he makes look so simple, the wizardry he performs with his Wilson wand and his whole game exudes elegance.

I remember watching the 2016 Wimbledon semi-final and Federer slipped on the court during the fifth set after having knee surgery for the first time in his career earlier that year, and the next day that image was plastered across various articles saying whether this was the dusk or probably a goodnight for his career.

Roger Federer bows out of Wimbledon 2016: Who said what on Twitter | Sports  News,The Indian Express
https://indianexpress.com/article/sports/tennis/roger-federer-bows-out-of-wimbledon-2016-who-said-what-on-twitter-2902097/

But just like Fawkes (Hello, Harry Potter fans), Federer took the year off, entered in as 17th ranked at the Australian Open 2017 on the back of a couple of matches, and nobody expected him to reach the quarters or semi-final let alone win the tournament. I read an article in which it was quoted, “Federer doesn’t have the balls to beat Nadal”. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both of whom were coming back from injuries and were not the favorites for the Australian Open 2017, even going into the final, Roger wasn’t the favorite to win and then the umpire, in the 5th set of Australian Open 2017, said, “new balls” and rest is history. I still remember the 26-shot rally Federer played to break back at 2-3 in the fifth and went on to win his 18th Grand Slam title.

https://syndication.bleacherreport.com/amp/2689881-australian-open-2017-schedule-mens-final-tv-live-stream-replay-coverage.amp.html

You could see the joy on his face, it was unlike the 17 he had won, and the way he kneeled on the court after the win showed how much effort had got into that one. And in the post-match presentation, when he graciously accepted the Norman Brookes Cup and said, “There are no draws in tennis, but if there were, I would have been happy to share this trophy with you tonight, Rafa.” And everyone watching on the court and on any medium realised that this guy is not only an eloquent speaker but an epitome of grace.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal - Australian Open final 2017 - Mirror Online
https://i2-prod.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article9715499.ece/ALTERNATES/s1227b/2017-Australian-Open-Day-14.jpg

There is such hue and cry about men showing emotions, and then there is this 37-year-old man, at the stage of Australian Open 2018, he has won the finals against Cilic, and in the post-match presentation when he is overwhelmed by his emotions, he cries, like he has, so many times, in front of millions of people watching live and in person, and takes his time to regroup and the gracious people in the crowd show what that actually meant to them through a 15-minute standing ovation with Rod Laver clicking a picture of that moment. And that has been one of the things that stuck with me, in an era where men are subjected to stick to manly mannerisms and crying is portrayed as a symbol of weakness, he goes out there and shows that being emotional doesn’t make you any less of a man. It’s not only his game that makes him special, it’s his candor, his emotions, his vulnerability, and how stable and sure he is of his own self. The presenter, when calling Roger on to the stage said, “Your 2018 Australian Open Champion, from Switzerland but loved all around the world, Roger Federer”, it echoed every person’s feeling about Roger. He is loved all around the world.

Roger Federer Wins the Australian Open for His 20th Grand Slam Title - The  New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/sports/tennis/australian-open-roger-federer-marin-cilic.html

I can probably write a novel, but to save you from that, and to conclude, there will be debates about who is the greatest of all time, who is the best player and the rankings, the numbers, and everything. Though I believe that there can never be a single person who can be the GOAT in any field, there will always be someone who will be better but that in no way lessens the greatness of the people who have done the unimaginable. As a spectator, all I can say is, I, like millions, am willing and beyond elated to see Federer play till he wants to, and will be heartbroken, to say the least, when he hangs up the racket, and that’s okay because that’s how it goes. But whenever lawn tennis is going to be discussed in any situation and in any era, tomorrow or 100 years down the line, Roger Federer would be synonymous with the sport, Always!

Watch the final point of Roger Federer's thrilling Australian Open win |  For The Win
https://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/01/roger-federer-australian-open-win-final-video-results-rafa-nadal-highlights

As Rolex said in one of their ads, “From here on out whatever the scoreboard says, his legend can only grow, because, in time, Roger Federer’s legacy will prove more perpetual than any number.”

Sources:
Mike Wilander apology
ATP tour
Perpetual
Wimbledon

That Meghan & Harry Thing!

I am a little late to the party but how could I miss writing about one of the most talked about interviews after the 1995 Princess Diana’s scandalous yet intriguing interview.

But, now that I have your attention (The Office viewers will get this), before getting into the invigorating details about Meghan and Harry, I wanted to discuss a lesser interesting topic that I read a couple of days ago and you might have missed it (maybe you didn’t) as it doesn’t hold much significance in our lives. I am talking about the World Happiness Report 2021.

The World Happiness Report is a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It contains articles and rankings of national happiness, based on respondent ratings of their own lives, which the report also correlates with various (quality of) life factors. The World Happiness Report 2021 focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared. It’s aim was two-fold, first to focus on the effects of COVID-19 on the structure and quality of people’s lives, and second to describe and evaluate how governments all over the world have dealt with the pandemic. In particular, it tries to explain why some countries have done so much better than others.

A total of 149 countries are ranked by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be according to various parameters.

  • The rankings are based on polling (Gallup World Poll) which looks at six variables:
    • Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (Purchasing Power Parity).
    • Social Support.
    • Healthy life expectancy at birth.
    • Freedom to make life choices.
    • Generosity.
    • Perceptions of corruption.
  • Respondents are asked to rate their own current lives on a 0-10 scale.

Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fourth consecutive year and it is followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Norway.

India was ranked at the 139th position in World Happiness Report 2021 and Afghanistan at the 149th place. India ranked 140th in 2019 and 144th in 2020. Let’s talk about this for a minute. I can’t say that we haven’t improved but this improvement is like, I was scoring 32 marks out of 100 and the next year I scored 33 because that was the passing score. The improvement of India, 6.88%, in this context is very slow and I don’t know whether we can afford this slow growth or not. For the fourth year running, Finland has come out on top in the annual list powered by data from the Gallup World Poll. Check here for ranking country wise and continent wise on Human Development Index.

Finland, a Nordic country located in Northern Europe with a current population of 5,546,856. This small country in relativity has been at the top of World’s Happiest countries for 4 years now. But how has Finland been able to sustain at that level for 4 years and the thing to ponder about is whether Finland is making some changes or whether countries like ours are making none in this regard. Talking about Finland, It has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, a well-functioning democracy, and an instilled sense of freedom and independence, which is a big part of what makes this country the happiest. In addition to that, progressive taxation and wealth distribution has allowed for a flourishing and world-leading universal healthcare system. Though, what strikes me as different and one of the most influencing factors of Finland being the leader of this report is its leadership. Sanna Marin, at 34 years-old, she is the youngest prime minister in the world. The prime minister’s coalition government was formed with all five party leaders being women. Finland’s cabinet features a significant number of women: twelve portfolios are represented by women, seven by men. Almost half (47%) of the country’s parliamentarians, are women. This might come across as different to a lot of us as we are used to seeing our leadership being dominated mostly by one gender. And I am not saying this is the only factor that makes Finland stand on the top of World Happiness Report 2021 but it has to be a major contributing factor.

Now, Lets talk about India.

India is a country in South Asia. India’s 2020 population is currently estimated at 1,380,004,385. The question of the hour is, Why is India or Indians so unhappy that we are in the bottom 10 countries of the Happiness Index?

India is a developing nation with an estimated nominal GDP of $2.8 trillion. It is the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). However, the per capita GDP has been comparatively low. Similarly, the distribution of capital has also been unequal to substantial amounts within the country. Thus, spending is lot less than it it should be. Now, GDP is one of the factors of the WHR 2021 which is gradually but constantly improving, but factors like social support and corruption are bringing the overall ranking of India down. Talking about deaths by suicide, India reported an average of 381 deaths by suicide daily in 2019, totaling 1,39,123 fatalities over the year, according to the latest NCRB data. The causes of suicide have been listed as Family problems, Illness, Drug Abuse and Mental Illness among others. Corruption and social unrest has been another major factor in the Happiness Index. Since 2010, there has been 100s of scams amounting equal to or more than INR 100 crore. In 2020, apart from various incidents of mass lynching, two major riots shook the nation resulting in 56 people losing their lives and more than 300 people were left wounded with loss of property, the amount of which is unascertained. I will have to write a separate post for criminal activities and environment damage.

I can’t say that the picture isn’t as gory as its painted out to be, It’s worse. I know, because I live here. But, there are positives, India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. India has attracted a total FDI inflow of USD 58.37 billion during April to November 2020. It is the highest ever for the first eight months of a financial year (F.Y.) and 22 % higher as compared to the first eight months of 2019-20 (USD 47.67 billion). India has been a leader in handling the pandemic way better than developed nations with resources much lesser than them. India has developed a vaccine in such a short time with great efficiency. India is currently in the process of vaccinating people with 44.6 M vaccines administered and 7.48 M people have been fully vaccinated. Foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, when addressing the Asia Economic Dialogue 2021 said, India has lived up to its talk on a collaborative future by exporting vaccines to more than 70 countries and will be adding 40 countries to this list soon.

As Indians, we all are responsible for the good and the bad. We have a tendency to overshadow the bad with the good and that is perhaps the reason, we are not improving the way we have the potential to. It is not only the job of the government to do everything and we can’t hold them responsible when we are not. A very basic example of how callous and irresponsible we have become is, I see people cleaning their houses and throwing the garbage on the road and if you ask them to not do that, they have the audacity to talk back and start an argument with you. This is a very small and basic example of how we are failing at not being responsible citizens but just failing at being humans. Let’s be better, let’s make this country we call ours actually ours, let’s help in cleaning our country and recycling the garbage not throwing it outside. Let’s raise our kids with morals along with mobile phones and tablets. Before, teaching them coding, let’s tell them what is wrong and right. Let’s talk about depression, let’s not talk about gender equality, let’s start implementing measures to make that happen. Let’s talk about secularity and not believe everything that is on the news like gospel. Let’s be objective instead of judgmental, let’s be kind before being doubtful and let’s be humans before being anything else.

Before I forget, Oprah was a great interviewer and Meghan and Harry were great interviewees. That’s all!

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What is Love?

As I was wandering through the lanes of my mind on a lazy Saturday afternoon with a burger in my hand, I was somewhere lost between pondering about love or burgers or both, but as the sky was beautiful and maybe it was the influence of the songs (Agar tum saath ho and Simply the best) I was listening to, I chose to give my thoughts to love. As I started to think about Love and the complications that come along with it, this is a bit of what went through my mind.

We have so many ideas and expectations of love, as I have written earlier, millennials think love is complicated – Modern Love, but, really

Love is not always dressed in a pretty black dress waiting for you at the end of the hall

Love is at times in jumpers with crooked teeth crossing the road in front of you.

Love is not dinners at restaurants whose name you cannot pronounce,

Love is having cup noodles at 4 a.m. in the winters.

Love is the butterflies you have while holding their hands

Love is looking across the room filled with people and meeting their gaze somewhere in the middle.

Love is not about marriage or societal tags

Love is about seeing through eternity together.

Love is not about being happy all the time,

Love is having the strength to live through the sadness.

Love is dancing in the rain; love is having a bucket of ice cream to ourselves.

Love is in every tiny bit we do. Love is simple, it is us who complicate it by our expectations of love.

And I finally got up to not ponder but dig into the burger, after all love is also in eating a delicious burger.

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Being Mother

Being mother is hard.
Not because of pregnancy or labor, but for every second we are in strain.
The baby screams at night, we feel someone could have held her for a while, but holding her, we are restless listening her cry.
When she clings, we feel we need some space, but even few minutes away from her makes us hold her in tight embrace.
We wish she could handle all her deeds, but if she does, we are no more in need.
Handling all responsibilities makes us feel wish she could grow up fast, but when she grows, we miss her past
The feeling of wasting time being a fulltime mom goes away the moment the feeling of being a mother takes control.
We wish we could hang out with friends, party & shop but without her, our minds are constantly worried about whereabouts of her
Sometimes we feel we should be little less attached but could someone who has grown as an organ inside our body be so easily detached.
Sometimes they get on our nerves and we reprimand only to realize that our guilt cannot be controlled.
We restrict them from using screen time overall, but isn’t it what even we are doing as being adults?
We wish to lead a carefree life like before, but we would even then be longing for a kid to adore.

Written by Sahana – Find her on Instagram

Fire – from a simple spark

Times like these, when we’re confined to the walls of our homes, gives us time to ponder, that we need to rethink what we have been doing in the past. Our methods, our ways were not designed to live but just to exist. Now, when we see ducks swarming the canals of Venice or a clear blue sky in Mumbai, or dolphins in Italy’s waterways, we must realize that there is something wrong with what we have done in the past to the environment we live in. We have taken it for granted and not paid enough attention to it. And as we realize that there is no bigger force than nature, we should treat it better. Think about using a plastic bag and throwing that in the ocean, think about using a car to the grocery shop near you, think about your eating habits, and think that you’re not bigger than this planet. Nature is simple, you take care of it and it takes care of you. This planet is our home, and we have to take care of it or else there would be nothing left to take care of.

For any change to take place, a fire has to be ignited in the hearts and minds of people. A fire that inspires, motivates and compels us to be better. Any revolution in history started from a spark that turned into a fire and transformed the world we live in. In the current scenario, I believe a spark wouldn’t be enough, a fire as potent as the sun has to be lit because the time for metamorphosis has arrived and if we still remain oblivious, then like ash, all there will be is remains.

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Anthology

NOT READY TO LEAVE

I remember her voice,
It was amalgamated
I heard hope, helplessness
I felt pain and desire.
She was, is, not ready to leave

All this while

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Words hang in between
Unsaid by you and me.
Silence precedes,
Eyes search across the Nile
Gaze transfixed all this while
A moment stretched in time
Few words sewn in rhyme
Lips curve, evaporates a smile,
Hearts start on a journey of many miles.

Ignorance, maybe

‘What makes someone work hard every day?’, I often ask.
Motivation is temporary,
Discipline can have an exception,
Passions can wither,
Love is an unknown!
What, what keeps people going day in and out?!
Survival?
The desire to excel?
The aspiration to make history?
To utilize time efficiently?
What, what, what?
Ignorance, maybe?

Evolution

I want to write a book.
There is no story, though.
Just words
Pressed by lead in a diary
Spanning years
Spanning continents.
The pencil still looks new
The grip a little soft
And the holder evolved

Illusion

I get bored of nothing.
Stayed home, watched T.V., ordered food!
Mind evaded work first,
Then created an illusion

Maslow’s hierarchy

I strung some words together
And it made me happy.
I have my stomach full.

Poems written by Smriti , follow her on Instagram

Modern Love

I am a sunflower, a little funny, if I were a rose, maybe you’d pick me!

My earphones had this on loop when things went left. I couldn’t fathom what really happened. I spent weeks in denial, then months in sadness and eventually accepted that I wasn’t worth the fight.

After months of self-loathing and guilt came a resounding belief that I did everything that could have been done, you did everything that could’ve been done. Yes, I left and you can blame me for that and I can blame you for not fighting enough!

But we weren’t meant to be together, we knew that since the first time we met, right? I was the girl who’d overthink over things that didn’t require thought, the girl who’d prefer long walks instead of sitting in over the top places, the girl who had faith and you were the boy with a fire in the black of your eyes, you were the boy who was overprotective of the people you love, you were the boy who would sing and dance to music that was unbearable for my ears. But we changed, we adapted to each other’s needs and I always said that no matter how many traits you change, your core never really changes. You never really alter your core. And from love, it became something more complicated if there is such a thing. We became the swing that goes forward but equally backward too, our minds became aloof, and even though you and I were together but there were only moments when we really were.

Content provided by Samiksha Singh. Please follow her on Instagram and Linkedin