(Published in The Statesman, December 26, 2005. Copyright Gowri Mohanakrishnan)
In all my forty three years, I've never won a prize at games. And today, a beautiful November Sunday, I won at golf (category: Novices and Beginners). It amazed me and it has stunned my family into a respectful silence.
I spent my entire school life trying to get out of the way of basketballs, soft balls and cricket balls that classmates aimed at me. With one hand holding my spectacles in place, I would run to a corner of the field and look out anxiously for missiles. There was a reason why I didnt get into trouble with the PT and games teachers. One rainy July morning when we were in Class V, PT had to be taken indoors in a classroom. The teacher gave us a dictation test of sports related words. I was the only girl who could spell 'Calisthenics' and 'Eurythmics' in a class of forty. That didn’t actually win me exemption from the dreaded ball games, but the teachers tolerated me and ignored me until I passed out from school. It was a great relief to me.
I'm no sportsperson, and I'm a terrible traveller as well, which is why it is hard to believe that the prize that was awarded to me was for the best Long Drive.
I didnt play the match. Those who did played 36 holes over two days. I only entered for the long drive, pitch and putt competitions at the insistence of friends who wanted me to do it for a lark. I wasn't so sure. Go and make a fool of myself on the golf course in front of all those people? I said yes, anyway, getting carried away by all the high spirits and good natured fooling that always goes on at Ladies’ Meets. My old friend Lizzy has a kind heart and she knew I was really feeling terrified deep down inside. She took me aside, pressed a club into my hands and spoke to me calmly and patiently before sending me out into the field. Her words played over and over in my head. 'Eye on the ball. Forget everything else. Just keep your eye on the ball.' My guru's advice paid off.
It was Wodehouse's stories that first attracted me to golf. His golfing stories capture all the beauty of the links: the expanse, the sense of leisure and the silences. The golf courses in the Dooars, where I live, are all located below the foothills of the Himalayas, and two or three of them lie along riverbeds. There is a sense of nature in repose on these courses and I have enjoyed many walks on them. Needless to add, when there were no golfers sending balls whizzing around me.
There is a woman in a Wodehouse golf story who is a tennis player. The hero, a strong, silent four handicapper worships her, but vows to make her a golfer before he weds her. On her first session on the course, she tees off without a care. To her amazement, her ball sails away for yards and yards. She is hooked to the game for life.
I too hit the first ball without a care. After all, I had nothing to lose. Everyone knows I'm no golfer. I saw it sail away into the distance in a perfect arc as if it had a life of its own. Disbelieving and filled with wonder, I attempted the next shot. And went to pieces, trying to live up to my own performance.
Shot number 2 was disqualified. At number 3 I pulled myself up a bit -- with friends yelling encouragement -- and managed to achieve contact; a feat in itself, and distance, if not direction.Direction -- yes, I have a sense of one as of today. I have an answer to that question that all unemployed people dread, 'What do you do ?' I shall say, 'I play golf'.