VV Memoriezzz 3
8th standard. The first time from when I forgot to miss my hometown and began to get acclimatized to a city life. In short, I was turning into a complete chennaite. Aeroplanes didn't impress me then; The four lane roads weren't highways any more; Getting up at 10:00 am became very common; The hypnotizing horn of an electric train due to Doppler effect sounded very usual rather than turning out to be a lovely piece of music; MTC bus conductors' "otha mela eri vaada" didn't seem to be offensive; And oh yea, I didn't feel like holding my breath near the holy river of Cooum, thats something.
I remember a conversation with Selva Kumar sir when I was in sixth...A convo between I-am-the-boss-at-the-ground type of a person and a timid, 'new born' chennaite,
"Ok boys come on come on, one lap jogging one lap jogging, rotate the ground..."
While we were err, 'rotating' the ground, I was thunderstruck by seeing one thing. Oh my God ! It was a torn basketball net !
"Dei Santhosh !", I called Santhosh Ssr. "Inga paarudaa Basketball nettu !", I really love the sight and sound when a basketball beautifully swirl inside the net for moments and come down. Yea, I've played NBA 2000 in Madurai.
After 'rotating' the ground, Selva Kumar sir sent the other boys to play football and started speaking to the new-comers. When my turn came,
"Enna man ? Whats ur name ?"
"Endha ooru ?"
"Madurakaaran saar", marker said. He was already a close friend of mine, even before the fist PT session.
"Hmmm, what sports do you play ?"
"Cricket sir", yea I loved cricket so much at that time, in fact I came to chennai with a joy that the game of cricket will be there in all schools. Later on that day, I came to know from Santhosh Ssr that in Vana Vani, cricket kedaiyaadhaam. That was a great shock for me. I felt as if my life was doomed, honestly, at that time.
"What else do you play ?", he asked.
"Hmmm, Goli, bambaram, kitti pul..."
"Dai ! Nakkalaa ?"
No, I didn't get him. I was talking to him about something serious, seriously. Those were some good sport in Madurai, in fact I'm invincible in spinning a top and I'll even defeat the seniors, I challenge ! And this man is considering it as a joke ! Especially when I saw football and basketball for the first time in my life and wondered whether these could atleast come near those legendary games, this man %$#&^&%*#&%, pichu puduven pichu...
That was a long time ago. Slowly I stopped missing Goli and Bambaram, they became childish stuffs. In 8th, suddenly I had a passion to represent the school as a Basketball player. This is one heavenly piece of decision that changed my fate, yes, nothing happened. Atleast I felt that something was happening before. Nevertheless, my dimension in Y-axis began to shoot up from this point, that was a considerable change. Any girls who have "Why the hell he's this tall, I'll be needing a stool :-( " thought, hard luck ! :-P
I decided to go for coaching after school hours. This is when I got introduced to Adarsh Simon. As far as I know, we were the only guys in my batch who play basketball in a more err, 'professional' way (I didn't come to know about the legendary player Sakthi Vvs yet) !
The basketball coach was Mohan Raj sir. The whole point of this note revolves around him, yea, in the name of introduction, things just went back in time. My apologies...Now let me describe him. I'm in a full form in describing people now, after the rough ragging sessions in my college ! Mohan Raj sir receives the honour of being the first male to be described by Vishnu Varatharajan :-P
Mohan Raj sir is a coach, thats it. And if you can find out what sport 'exactly' he is in within minutes after a convo with him, you are the next James Bond. A bald man in mid-seventies wearing Nike shoes and a Crocodile T-shirt, and ofcourse a pant, tracks preferably. He used to wear a cap that reminds me of ice-cream vendors in Marina beach. He never rests, very active, extremely active that he calls for sunday training sessions and scold us all on monday for not turning up on saturday and making him wait for the whole day (An incident which made us us to think that he's a punctual b**ch). An eco-friendly person, who used to go everywhere only in his bicycle that has a BMW logo in the front mud-guard. Nevertheless, a great man he is, having a passion to teach basketball in such an age ! And yea, he has a nickname too, just as other teachers have.
'Ujji ujji' sir, thats how Adarsh Simon call him. Some people call him "Jijji jujjoo" while I call him "Ajujujoo". Now, flashback, tilt your heads up...
On the first day of the session. Myself and Adarsh Simon went to him for learning how to do a successful lay-up. And this is how the couch-coach conversation turned out.
"Sir lay-up solli thaanga sir"
"Enakku vela irukku, you go and learn yourselves. Modhalla odamba korainga, thoppaiya paaru, dhoba dhoba-nu"
We retreated. At that time some girls came to him.
"Sir lay-up solli thaanga sir"
"Ajujujujoo, lay-up dhaane ma, idho solli tharen"
Hence came the name.
He used to pinch our cheeks, hard for boys and 'ajujujoo' for girls. But one thing for which I'm grateful to him is that he always keeps boys-girls match. What else do we need ? Its 'ajujujoo' time :-P
I really admire his way of teaching defence, especially when you got to take care of more than one opponent.
"Basketball is not just seeing the ball, I mean the ball which I'm holding now in my hands, not the ones of you boys which I'll squeeze out if our team loses. Where was I ? Yes, its not just seeing the ball, picking it up, and shooting", he says proudly. "Its about how you use your six senses effectively inside the court". Due to his 'Tao of Physics' way of teaching basketball, everyone used to listen carefully to him.
"Eyes, you can see what is infront of you and where the referee is looking. Ears, you can distinguish the voices and determine their positions. Nose, someone would've not taken bath on that day, gandhaa smell ! Touch, you can find how rough an opponent is by body contact. Taste, the more you fall down and taste the floor, the more rough you'll become. Brain, you can calculate the altitude and force that has to be given to the ball during passing and shooting"
"How useful this 55kg body is !", this is what we used to think after his 'lecture'.
"Use legs efficiently for pivoting, now hands, head, chest, shoulders, use every strong part of your body for blocking, he is our enemy, an enemy who has to be defeated one and only by fair-play, now jog you ***** !"
But the sad part is that the above positive things happen only once in every fortnight or so. He strongly believed that a player had to be intelligent first, rather than being strong and rough to the opponent. So he found a way to enhance our intelligence, which we thought, was the most damn f**king method in the history of basketball, in the history of methods, and in the history of f**king.
An important aspect in basketball is predictabilily, that is, how much you are right in predicting whether the opponent attempts for a fake move or not. So one day, when we were wondering whether we'd learn lay-up atleast on that day, he brought a 'Funskool Mastermind' game set !
"Boys and girls come on", he sat on one of the benches near the court and took the board out. He taught us how to play mastermind. Its about decoding a colour code with minimal wrong predictions. After he taught us, he asked me and another boy to play first. I didn't listen to him at all, neither did he. We were just blinking. And thank God !
"Its better to do nothing than making a wrong move", said Mohan Raj sir.
"Thats exactly what we were thinking sir !"
"Pongadaa, vandhuttaanga !", he drove us away and made another pair to play.
"Sir lay-up ...."
"Ennadhu innum kathukkaliyaa ?"
That was the most 'Double U Tee eff' sort of a reply we ever heard. We strongly opposed his way of
improving our intelligence through indoor games and failing to teach us a basic lay-up. We can't lift the ball using intelligence ! We're not David Copperfield after all !
Similarly on a Sunday we all gathered in the court at 6:30 am, as he said. As usual he was very punctual, he came at 8:00. And then we warmed up for an hour ! Then he taught us 'Suriya Namaskaram".
"Now flexibility ! That is one non-flexible point in basketball, it is a must !"
Yea, I felt the Suriya Namaskaram session would be useful, but I hoped that I'll learn lay-up atleast after the warm up.
After the warm up, he made us practice three-point shoots.
"Atleast not mastermind", I thought and I became active.
Then he challenged us that he'll shoot from half court within three tries, and he did in the final try ! That was one professional thing for us (Not now, its child's play :-P) at that time, that too from a 75 year old coach. He used to say that he has a passion for basketball. He also adds that he was 75 at that time and he's able to play, and when he become 76 or 77 or 80, he may not be able to stand up. So he requested us all of us to co-operate well in his tenure. I too wanted to be dedicated, but my body physique at that time was not even as flexible as an amateur player for a clean game. Then he said that he had to go to Chemplast stadium for a match, and he left. I didn't learn lay-up on that day too, but I didn't feel for that any more. Luckily the 'once in a fortnight' thing happened later with lay-up becoming the lesson and I mastered it finally.
One fine convo between Selva Kumar sir and Mohan Raj Sir is a memorable one, I would never ever forget in my life...
One day Mohan Raj sir brought a Golf kit to improve our precision (He never changes his methodology you know :-P). He dug a hole behind the court under a tree that was giving shade to the volley/handball court. He taught us how to hold the bat, aim, decide the force to be given to the ball depending upon the distance from the hole. We practised it for the whole session. Who could say to him that this will not help our precision in basketball. If at all we simply practise shooting, we might get it.
One month later, we went to Chettinad Vidhyashram School for zonal level event, and we lost to Sivaswami Kalalaya in the first match itself. Mohan Raj Sir felt the opponents didn't play a fair game. So he started a fight with the opponent team's coach !
"Arae bile ka bachaa !"
"Poda May****pud****", the fight became intense. Finally Noori Shaukat Ali ma'am moderated and brought sir to our place. He was deeply offended by the way we lost to them. He didn't expect such defeat at all. He thought this defeat was the greatest humiliation for him as a coach. So he resigned.
Then I couldn't see him often. Sometimes I saw him standing near the sports room. Now I have no idea where he is, or whether he is ! :-\ He should be 83 now, and if he is still alive somewhere, I pray to God that he should live longer. Thats all about him.
And about his conversation with Selva Kumar Sir...
After the Golf playing session was over, we went to the sports room for keeping the basketballs in its place. Mohan Raj sir too came along with us. He greeted Selva Kumar sir who was sitting there and as usual pretending to be the busiest person in IIT Madras.
"Hello, good evening"
"Good evening Mohan sir", Selva Kumar sir told blankly.
"Sir neenga basket ball court kitta dhaane irundheenga ?", he suddenly asked Mohan Raj sir.
"Aamaa aen ?"
"Illa evano oruthan anga kuzhi thondi vechirukkaan, padubaavi paya !"
I spat the water which I was drinking. LOL !! :-D
"Err", Mohan Raj sir gave an awkward expression.
"Indha pasangale ipdidhaan, edhayaachum thondikittae....porukki pasanga"
"He he vidunga sir edho chinna pasanga theriyaama panniruppaanga"
"Adhepdi vida mudiyum ? Endha naay adha senjaano ?"
"Sir thittaadhenga sir, paavam andha paiyan theriyaama pannittaan"
"Neenga en sir kandavanukku support panreenga ?", Selva Kumar sir asked.
"Inime anga yaarum kuzhi thondaama paathukkuren, don't worry", Mohan Raj sir grinned helplessly, with his face looking awkward again. As he wasn't willing to stay there anymore, he bade him good bye and left the room. While leaving, I saw his face. His expression said,
"Inime Basketball mattumdhaan kathu kudukkanum"