Standing behind the baseline of Court Number 2 at the BTA, I was warming up for my tennis session.The morning sky was heavily overcast.Sensing that my coach was perhaps late, a casual court-side acquaintance offered to hit balls with me. I had known this man for the past six months and was aware of how serious he was about tennis and fitness.He had given me some valuable inputs on my forehand grip some days back. Those tips had been very useful in keeping my forehand shots inside the court, and at the same time helped to generate a lot of topspin.
“My pleasure, Sir.” I always looked forward to playing with him, or with anyone,for that matter.
As I drew my racket out of its cover ,he started blabbering about serve postures,volley grips and comparative bounces of Slazenger and Head balls.He must have talked incessantly for about two-three minutes.I kept staring at him ,trying to comprehend whatever he was throwing at me.
Then out of the blue, I asked him “What do u do,Sir ?” Now i don’t even ask most people their names,and am hardly concerned with the jobs they do.After all ,names are accidents,and jobs are life sentences.In any case,such bits were extraneous to the cause of hitting balls .I am not suggesting that it might not be advantageous to be knowledgeable of your opponent’s vocation if u are playing a competitive match.A surgeon hits his shots with studied meticulousness.Chefs are content to play long rallies and cook their opponents’ goose.Any self-respecting cop will try to finish points early,while a jeweller or an architect will contrive to bedazzle you with beautiful strokes.A taxman might serve safely to somehow stay in the game,but a soldier would definitely want to overwhelm you with bazooka serves.I concede that some kind of vague correlation might exist between an amateur’s profession,and the kind of tennis he plays.But till today,I had never bothered about how any of my sparring partners made their living.
“What do you do ,Sir?”A harmless question, repeated.
“We have our own business,”Did I see him getting uncomfortable, and look the other way ? I am a taxman,and cant let such uncertainty prevail for long.
“What kind of a business,boss ?”
It came as a shock then that a man as confident as him, broke eye contact,bowed down his head, and slipped a quick “undergarments” as an apologetic response.A frivolous smile crossed my lips, in spite of my better sense.It was the manner,not the content, of his reply that forced this moment of levity upon me.When I finally gathered my wits and blurted a “wow”,he gained some of his verve back and informed me about the two brands they manufactured-one of them since 1965, whose ads could be seen all over the city,and the other one of dry-fit material,which had recently been introduced and had proved quite a success.
I wanted to ask him if they manufactured female UGs as well,but somehow stopped myself.It didn’t just seem proper.You couldn’t embarrass a decent man beyond a certain limit.I felt guilty.This conversation took place before we had started hitting .It was an intense session.There were moments when I didn’t see his moustachioed face and baseball cap-covered bald head.When a pair of undies hits cross-court forehands ,you sort of lose your perspective.One can just smile and applaud.I took care that my smile wasn’t noticed by my opponent who is an undergarments’ manufacturer,and hits lovely forehands.
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