The Wimbledon Championships. Steeped in history, they’ve always managed to maintain that perfect balance between tradition and the modern age. Age old rules, instead of becoming obsolete, have now become one of the most appreciated aspects of the tournament. For example, players and spectators alike have to adhere to strict dress codes, and this somehow adds to the aura. Despite today’s game being all about top spin, drop shots, power serves and baseline play, at Wimbledon, you can still picture the men playing in plaited white trousers with wooden racquets. You can picture ladies, in their flowing white skirts, skipping around daintily on the court. Wimbledon has always been proper, elegant and contained.
They say you can almost taste Wimbledon. Strawberries and cream, with the smell of grass and a hint of rain always around the corner. English muffins and the aroma of coffee wafting through the air. They say you can almost see Wimbledon. Gentlemen with pegs of sherry, and ladies with their little cups of tea. A group of ardent Murray (and Henman before him) supporters aside, the crowd is immaculately dressed, with cuff links, tie pins, broaches and a Wimbledon brochure. They say you can almost hear Wimbledon. Polite ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ are never prolonged, and if they are, they are quickly subdued by the chair umpire with an admonishing ‘Quiet, please.’ Even during changeovers, the crowd is always murmuring quietly, one eye constantly on the court, to see if the players are ready.
A perfect English setting – one I can easily imagine myself in right now. Except, I can’t.
When I taste Wimbledon, I taste pakoras and filter coffee. I can feel the crunch of cream biscuits and the thickness of tomato sauce. I see burnt fingers when I think of hot cutlets with bread- an English vada pav, if you will. Plate after plate of delicious Indian ‘snacks items’ keep coming in, with my mother working overtime in the kitchen.
When I see Wimbledon, I see my father and me at home, sprawled out on the bed, with the TV (telly?) in front of us. We literally jump with joy at every winner, scream when unforced errors are committed, and generally ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ much louder than the accepted level. Not many words are spoken while the match is on. It’s almost like we’re as much in the zone as are the players. Rapt attention, unblinking eyes and silent admiration is what it’s all about.
When I hear Wimbledon, I hear us yelling and almost bringing the roof down. Changeovers, though, are for settling match related disputes and deciding the menu for the next set. As the match goes on, past ten thirty at night, I can hear my mother’s plaintive cries of ‘put the TV off da’, ‘it’s just a match’ and ‘you can see the score on the internet’. I can then hear my father not even deigning to reply, as the TV remains on, and the match continues.
At the end of the day, it’s all the same. All of us, the spectators in Wimbledon and the millions like us have that sad but content feeling in our hearts. The mental fatigue starts setting in, but there is also that smile that lingers. As we sleep off, I bet all of us imagine that deadly backhand down the line, those three aces in a row, or those two crucial break points saved.
What a game!