What Tennis Means to me
It was no surprise in college when I was the only girl who played Tennis. I was told to arrange for a Doubles partner as Federal board Tennis championship was coming up. I started my search but unfortunately there wasn’t a single girl who had ever played the sport. I then taught the sport to one basketball player who was interested in learning. We practiced everyday while bunking classes. But of course she couldn’t learn the whole sport so soon. In doubles matches, our sports teacher gave her only one gallery to cover and I covered the whole doubles court. We had matches in various colleges. There was always a sense of competition and rivalry during the championship. In some girls colleges, they made fun of me, called me names and sang songs against us Bahrians. We also had our songs (tarana’s) which we sang after each win while we jumped, hugged each other, danced and even lay down in the courts unable to retain our happiness. Our college had songs with hilarious lyrics like ‘Samundar ka pani, pani ka bulbula, Bulbulae mei Machli, Machli ka Anda Bahria’ (Water in the sea, bubble in water, fish in bubble, egg in fish, Bahria). No wonder, they made fun of us! We would then retaliate with our songs against them like ‘city, city shitty school’ whenever we had matches against The City School.
|Federal board championship final and trophy in 2002|
After a series of matches, we reached quarter finals, semis and then Finals which were held in Islamabad College for Girls in F-6 Islamabad. There was a sense of tension throughout the match as the spectators were on the opponent side. They kept calling me names and would shout even in the middle of points. They made fun of my sunglasses, called me names and when I stopped responding to their loud remarks, they would say Bahray Bahri Bahrian (Deaf Bahrian). But of course I never took it to heart and (thank God) beat my opponent in straight sets. In doubles, I had a hard time running everywhere and I wasn’t feeling well that day and had to cover almost the entire doubles court. But we managed to win doubles too. The ecstasy was so unreal. We had become the Federal Board champions. We were later called to attend the Championship Trophy ceremony at Higher Education Commission headoffice where we received a huge Tennis trophy with my name engraved as I was the captain. I ran home with cramped legs but I managed to run upstairs and give the news to mama. She has always been as supportive as Papa towards my playing Tennis. I will never forget how happy I was. That Championship trophy lay in our TV lounge for 2 years and was a matter of pride for our whole family.
|Islamabad Pakistan Tennis Federation courts on bottom left. Pic with Isham ul haq Pakistan No.1|
|In Lahore DHA 2016|
In Bahria university, we had singles tournaments in which i was the only one who participated. We played in Fatima Jinnah University Rawalpindi, Naval courts E-8 and in Lums University Lahore. My best friends and I travelled to Lahore and stayed in their hostel twice as I had matches there. We really had the time of our lives during these trips. We used to be out galavanting the city, on joy rides at all odd hours of the night. All my friends cheered for me whether my match was at 1 pm in extreme hot weather or at 2 am in the middle of the night. During matches, the pressure was on. I lost some matches badly against girls from Punjab university and beat girls from Lums easily. I was also in Table tennis team. We thoroughly enjoyed the different culture of Lums. We were also invited to a party there. When we reached in our usual sporty gear and P caps, we found out it was a completely different sort of party. We ran away from the other door as fast as we could. We realised the guys who had gone with us went missing inside the party halls so we girls quickly grabbed a rickshaw to get back to the campus. We weren’t used to that western culture.
In university, I started playing Table Tennis more than ever before. We became really good at the sport too. We used to practice within university and at Naval gym after university. We had matches for which we played in different universities like Fatima Jinnah Pindi, Iqra university, Numl University, Szabist etc. We had final matches in FG university and met national level players who actually played that chinese level of the game. Before the match we were practicing cross court on the same table. They were so good their rally would last for 5 minutes or so. And ours would only last for two to three shots. It was embarrassingly funny. The nerves when you realise your opponent is a world class player. Our pictures were also published in newspapers.
|In AWC 2006|
Meanwhile, I used to play Tennis every evening at AWC where my dad worked. The head of Pakistan Tennis Federation used to play with us there. So he asked me to participate in matches held in PTF courts in Islamabad. I started playing there. I played some tournaments there and unluckily I had matches against Pakistan’s No. 1 Sarah Mehboob who beat me badly. But of course, I never gave up and kept my cool. After some months, there was an All Pakistan Universities Tennis camp in which I was selected. From cities all over Pakistan, 4 girls and 4 guys were selected. The first day during a match, I had to ask the marker who my room mate was. He replied ‘Nadeem’. That awkward moment when someone takes a boys name when you ask him about your roommate. My response was ‘I can’t live with a boy!’ He looked at me blankly and said ‘Nadeem is a girl’. I couldn’t believe my ears but I was happily relieved to meet her as she was actually a girl.
It was extremely hot and our accommodation was in Islamabad Sports Complex hostel. There was only a fan in our room and it was extremely hot. We used to pour water on our floor and bed and on our selves before we tried to sleep as it was unbearable otherwise. We had our fun times in the hostel and there were strange mysterious things I learned about life there too. I even saw girls who looked exactly like guys and probably homosexuals first time in my life. It was an experience in itself. That was my first and last experience of living in a hostel and it taught me so much about life. Tennis camp was by the government and we were supposed to be paid our daily wages for being a part of this camp. Our food, drinks, racket maintenance, grip and gut change was also part of the package. But the guy who was supposed to clear our dues used to come with excuses. I don’t remember a single time getting paid. But I wasn’t in it for the money anyway.
Our coach had been playing Davis cup finals and was a good player. But unfortunately, he wasn’t decent. I had been very innocent and raised in a protected environment. I never understood peoples tricks until then. Thank God, my friend Nauman from my university was also in this camp and he warned me to be careful around him and never be alone with him no matter what. Nauman’s father worked in the sports complex so he started pick dropping me if I ever had a problem. Anyway, the tennis camp was extremely tough. During summer, we had to run and sprint the whole day as we only had full days to practice. There were no lights in PTF. We even had to walk all the way to our hostel in the jungle. We would try to get a taxi which we mostly couldn’t find. Once we did find a small Suzuki taxi, and we all had to fit in it. Four girls and four guys. It was one hell of a ride but we had no choice as our legs had cramps and we couldn’t possibly walk so much.
We had our fun times too. Nauman and I would try to team up and while the opponents were serving, we would distract them by making strange faces and jumping in a funny way. They would often end up in a double fault. Then we would go hysterical over such childish behaviour.
At night, we would sometimes walk outside the sports complex to Aabpara and have some better food at Kamran Restaurant. We used to be dressed in our Tennis gear and our male players were with us. Everybody else used to be staring at us as its not an area where girls roam around without pardah (veil). The tennis camp was to prepare us all for the tournament in Istanbul. After the training, the government passed the decision, that instead of 4 boys and 4 girls, only 2 of each will be going for the match. They decided not to take the whole team. So I didn’t make it but learned a lot from the tennis camp.
|In Lahore Lums during championship, 2004|
|With all my tennis players at Air Weapons complex where I played from 2004-2006|
In National Defense University, I had my set of friends I played with. I used to go to the courts with My friend Sarah, her brother Ali and her father Dr. Amjad. We went in their Lilac coloured open air jeep with blaring rock music. If someone would ask/talk to each other, we had to literally scream our heads off so the other person could hear it as the music volume would not be lowered. I guess it was against the culture of that jeep. Papa used to play too but he used to come home late from office so he wasn’t very regular. The General sahab of NDU also used to play and whenever he would come, his partner was there to get a huge dose of insult. He was hilariously funny with his rude remarks on why his partner missed the shot. Whoever would be his partner would be blushing with embarrassment as General sahab was ruthless and didn’t care about how loud his abuse was. Whenever papa and I would come back home, we would mimic what happened at the courts and replay the whole scene. Mama and the sisters would have a good laugh.
Now finally after such a long break, I can’t explain my ecstasy as I am back in the Tennis courts with a bang. I couldn’t be happier when my darling hubby and my sweet mom-in-law suggested we get membership in nearby Sports club. I have been playing it regularly for many months now. I’m extremely happy to be back in form and I can’t believe it when I still win in Singles straight sets against men. All thanks to Allah as Tennis requires excellent shape. Now we have a Whatsapp Tennis group. I first play Singles with Rabi (knocking and then a set) and then Saad and Hamza join us in half or one hour. Then we play approx two sets of Doubles everyday. It is an excellent club 5 minute drive from our place open 7 days a week.
|DHA sports complex, Lahore 2016|