‘Win or Lose’
I don’t like momentary pauses from the other end when I am in conversation with my better half. Invariably they tell me that something is not quite right. And so it was when I asked her this time after getting into the car, “Honey, quite enjoyed the show, eh?”. The dreaded pause that I just mentioned. And then she spoke very softly but as a matter of fact, “ Either you should not have played or you should not have won”.
A little surprised and in fact perplexed at the unexpected undertone in her voice, I asked “What do you mean Honey?” To which she replied quite emphatically with a query, “Did you for even a moment look at his face when you took away his moment of glory?” I immediately understood what she meant but made some feeble noises of contradiction “Oh, it was just a game sweetheart, you are being too sensitive, don’t give it a second thought” and stuff like that.
Not to keep you wondering any longer, we were returning from the Intra-Command Table Tennis Championship which we had come to witness as the Guests of Honour. Our station had volunteered to host the event and self being the AOC, our presence was mandated on the culminating day. The ‘Finals’ matches were planned followed by the Prize Distribution. Depending upon performance, the winners would further progress to join the IAF team.
A fair bit of crowd had gathered in the hangar converted to a make-shift auditorium to cheer the players hailing from various stations. Cpl Swami was the star of the show having swept most of the prizes at stake. A fine energetic and skilful player he was. All those watching including the Command coach were sure that he would easily find a place in the IAF team.
As the time approached for giving away the medals, I still don’t know where the crazy thought swept into my mind when I beckoned the Sports Officer to announce that Cpl Swami will get the Winners medal only after he has a game with the AOC. Must tell you that I had been a pretty okay player of the game in my youth, having been a state level Quarter finalist in the Juniors category. Post that also, I had kept in touch with the game whenever the opportunity arose at irregular intervals. This was however not known to anyone much less Swami who was really ecstatic after having steam-rolled over all lesser opponents.
A decent racket was obtained and our ‘exhibition match’ began. Since it was going to be only one game, we opted for a game of 20 points. Swami was understandably taking it easy initially. I presumed that he did not want the AOC to get a thrashing in front of his own station. I on my part was trying to retrieve my ‘A game’ and was in no mood to give any quarters. That is the way I had always played the game with full seriousness and would never throw away a game.
Half way through we were even-stevens. A couple of lucky points for me and I found myself in the lead and saw an opportunity to press on. Swami seeing the game slipping out of his grasp, suddenly changed tactics and came full on. However, by the time he could wrest back the advantage, we were Deuce 20-20. It was anybody’s game now and sure enough, lady luck smiled on me.
Two consecutive lucky points on the edge of the table and it was all over. The crowd roared into a massive applause and I was thrilled at having beaten the Command champion, albeit in a friendly contest. As is customary, Swami and I shook hands and complimented each other on the quality of the game. Many other officers and station personnel trouped across to congratulate me and I must confess I was fairly pleased with the unexpected outcome.
I gave away the medals and praised the players and the organizers with a special mention for Swami. The ceremony concluded as planned and it was on our way back that this uncomfortable conversation was taking place between ‘my dearest‘ and me. Notwithstanding my forceful denials, deep in my heart when I reflected on my motives including one of probably showing off to the gallery, I knew that she was absolutely right. It was indeed Swami’s moment of glory. I had goofed up and robbed him of it in a foolish rush of adrenaline.
There was nothing much I could do now but to repent and feel sorry at leisure. My mood continued to be morose till the time the strains of Don Williams’ ‘I got a winner in you’ coming from the FM radio wafted into my ears.
I knew I had lost the plot, but I did have a winner with me who chose to tell me I had gone wrong when the entire world would lead me to believe otherwise.
Smiling weakly with a resolve of ‘Never Again’, I picked up my pieces with a lesson learnt the hard way.
‘ Sometimes it can be about losing also.’
First published at seekmediation.com on 30/06/21