Like most things these days, it started with a WhatsApp group. “Give it a shot,” my friend Daisy wrote. She was persuading a bunch of us to play badminton. “The weather is good too,” she said. I was not keen. I tried very hard to come up with an excuse, but when I could find none, I simply gave in.
I cycled up to the little patch of grass where we intended to play. Tall trees lined the wall along the grass, a light breeze gently kissed my face while a bunch of birds chirped away noisily in a low-lying branch nearby. But my brain was still working on an excuse to bail out of the game.
“I don’t have a racket Daisy,” I looked at her helplessly. Daisy probably had anticipated this. She handed me a racket. Soon two more friends joined in. There was no more excuse. I just had to hit the ball and play.
That day I played badminton for the first time in 25 years. I still don’t know if I enjoyed the experience. But I knew something had changed inside me. I was already making plans to meet for a game the next day.
It soon became a routine and we began to add more elements to our daily game. For one, we had a rope for a net with one end tied to the trunk of a tree and the other loose end tied to a thin dismantle-able metal rod. It was fun to not have a proper net. It felt like the good old days with each of us having our own memory of playing.
Racquets with gaping holes, broken handles and even using pieces of cardboard to hit the shuttlecock. We re-lived those memories. We became our younger selves and we laughed.
We also huffed, we complained about joint ache, knee ache, elbow ache, but we played nonetheless. Every time we had to pick up the shuttlecock from the ground we made faces, we made funny noises and sometimes we even recruited Daisy’s youngest daughter to be our ball-girl.
We said we would soon have a badminton league of our own and we even hoped to challenge the ACE player in our neighbourhood who is rumoured to have won many trophies. “We can win for sure,” we gushed with dreams sparkling in each of our eyes. Well, we said a lot of things. But then as they say, it caught the evil eye or perhaps it caught the weather’s eye. I missed it
One day as I swung my racket the shuttlecock danced in the wind. It didn’t land where I intended. We tried a couple of times, but the wind got the better of us. We abandoned play. I no longer had to look for excuses to not play. I just couldn’t.
Day after day I looked out of the window and gusts of heavy wind and dust storms held me indoors and suddenly I knew I missed it.
“Daisy, I miss those days. We should start playing soon,”I said wistfully. “The weather..,” she said as we watched the dried leaves dancing in the wind.
That moment I realised for the first time that we were playing not because we had to exercise, we were playing because we were laughing and we loved hitting the ball across the net. That was reason enough.
Now as we wait for the swirling sand to settle we joke about playing hard and losing those extra inches around our waist. We joke about going to glitzy malls and buying that fancy sportswear and taking selfies.
We laugh. That day would be fun, we always imagine. But for now we just have to wait for the weather to get better.
Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @sudhasubraman