Tennis and Habits: Creative Non-fiction Assignment #1
Wrote this piece in response to the first assignment in a writing workshop that I am currently attending, on creative non-fiction. The exercise was to write a three paragraph story that begins with a wide-angle perspective, then looks closer, and finally zooms into something that’s meaningful to the narrator/protagonist. Word limit of 500 words.
The sun seeps into my world through a steadily growing hole in the sky. When I wake up at 05:45, it is barely there; ten minutes later, when I step into the balcony, the building next door blushes in a shade of Amaranth pink. The security guard is still sleeping. I put on my shoes, pick up my tennis racquets, gulp down a glass of water, call out to my wife to close the door and step out into the as yet unlit corridor. I run down the stairs, then walk quickly towards the tennis courts. Dogs linger and stretch, a few men jog, an auto slowly motors down the road, and fallen leaves crackle beneath my feet, while I weave my way between the sidewalk and the edges of the road, avoiding low hanging tree branches, dried cake like dog shit and mounds of mud deposited from the last time the road was dug. I jump over the compound enclosing the courts and wave cheerfully at my two friends already there.
I have been playing at this court for over seven years now. I am amazed I still persist, knocking balls across the net every day. My game has improved a great deal, and so too has the rigidity of my mistakes. Tennis is an easy game to learn, but easier still to learn to play the wrong way. Every now and then, I have considered getting a video camera to record myself playing. Someday I will do it, and no doubt it will make for unflattering viewing. Elbows twisted at the wrong angles, the racquet coming down on the ball in unappealing arcs, footwork all over the place, eyes never watching the ball all the way to the strings, service motions exaggerated or utterly underwhelming, but never just right – yes, I can imagine a litany of technical errors near impossible to correct anymore.
But it does not matter. I am not here for technical perfection. Certainly, I strive to improve, but it is nevertheless a secondary objective – a consequence of repetition and continuous adjustment. I am here because it is better than being asleep at 6:30. I am here because it makes the rest of my day go better. I am here because my friends are here. I am here because I love the game. I am here because of Roger Federer. I am here because I desperately want to be here. And so I have made it a habit. Just like drinking coffee. I have come to this realization rather late – our habits are our roots. If I had more such habits, writing every day for one, I could well become just like the fecund tamarind tree court side. Year after year, it produces an enormous number of fruits just before the onset of summer, but is largely unchanged otherwise. It has struck such deep roots that the changing seasons, the increasing pollution and the fluctuating monsoons can do no more than touch it mildly.