Performing badminton: Finding my feminine voice

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Playing a sport had no space in the culture of the town or the household I grew up in. Watching a sport, yes. Obsessively commenting on it, double yes. But playing, nope. Choosing it as a career, blasphemy! Nevertheless, the sportsman in me never shied away from showing his passion to my family. I had neither bat nor ball; No stumps nor friends. Yet, nothing could stop the solo sporting acts I enacted for myself. The 10-year-old me created worlds that could reduce any VR to waste in the bat of an eye where I alone would bat, smash, dive, catch, and hug myself to celebrate the win with utmost zest. So when I got into college and picked up badminton, it was like my hottest crush telling me I could kiss her anytime I wanted. And I could hardly keep my pants on anymore – I was always in shorts.

Even after 6 years of playing, I approach badminton with a love so fierce that I die for brief moments whenever I play it. Eventually I strictly decided to never play in competitions. And badminton ended up being instrumental in giving a voice to my feminine side. Through this article, I hope to explore how badminton pushed me through these points of my evolution.

It all started when I moved to Mohali from Vizag, with no knowledge of how to differentiate between Hindi and Bengali. Naturally, I had no friends and was left with only badminton. Looking back, I was a pristine piece of shit when I had first started playing but luckily, I didn’t know that back then. I was too dumb to understand the difference between an appreciative behenchod and well, BEHENNCHOODDD. That made me immune to the judgements of professional players with their powerful smashes and I was supremely seduced by the act of it. So I kept going after it, kept sucking, kept sucking. 

Until one day, my racquet went and returned the smash all by itself, and I heard a ‘behenchodohohoh’ from the background. My lanky body had found its rhythm and started doing weird shit every now and then to eventually earn a behenchodohohoh. That was as satisfying as popping a pimple that is at its pinnacle. Gradually I found myself dancing in the court. I found myself flowing. I found myself making waves out of my body. Waves turned out to be the answers for every how-to question in badminton. Make a wave – hit a smash. Make a wave – fake a drop. After a while, it felt like I was making art in court with waves flowing out of me. Dance front – pick up the drop. Dance back – whip it to back. Dance side – cross drop wide. Dance side – smash their side. Doing only dancing post a point, playing badminton evolved into performing badminton for me.

It so happens a lot of times in life, one feels – fuck, I feel like dying. It’s sad. It’s even sad when people are judged for deciding to die. While the world is big on consent now-a-days, people are slapped into this world without consent, and then suffocated with societal rules and expectations from the first second.  However when they want to quit when life is forcing itself on them with its deadly claws, they’re judged and shamed and humiliated. I desire for little death. I think we all desire for little deaths. An off switch that helps us transcend the living reality and go to a far off place where the “I” as perceived by our mind and all the connections it has can be annihilated, even if for a few minutes.

First I thought, sleep or drugs could achieve that for me but life chased me into dreams and illusions too. Finally, badminton did the trick. It gets me into a space where my body, which I am often ashamed of, takes control by overthrowing my mind – that manipulative dictator that created these feelings, and declares itself the monarch and grants me asylum by giving me the death I desire. I am not saying I go brain dead while playing badminton but it certainly frees itself from all things negative and all things toxic. Those brief moments of death push me to play till bones poke out of my skin, and give me enough energy to live till it’s time for my next set of deaths.

Before I go to explore how Badminton could be the mascot of femininity, I want to speak about the concepts of masculinity and femininity in this paragraph, and I am scared of being politically and morally wrong. Being a male and identifying as a man, I am not sure what opinions or words of mine are shaped by the oppressive qualities of my sex and gender and expression. Anyhow, I’ll be honest and give it a go hoping it’ll make me wiser in the longer run. I see masculinity as a sheer clinical force aiming to dominate and achieve power. Whereas, I see femininity as a “rival” force aiming to distribute and level the power, and eventually make the power powerless. 

Before you ask, I see power as this something: when you possess it you’re at an advantage compared to the person not possessing it. I believe every human has the mix of femininity and masculinity. Maybe the recipe is different in each one – but they have them both. On the surface it happens so that masculinity with its lust for power tries to oppress feminine forces to achieve monopoly and establish dictatorship. The existence of patriarchy could serve as a proof for that claim. It would be a betrayal if I said femininity can’t challenge masculinity because it does and has been doing so through countless revolutions and songs. Probably it’s destiny that these two forces will always be at conflict, from micro to macro levels, from individual level to country level, without understanding that they should actually be Yin and Yang.

I had the impression that every sporting event is just a search for the champion of masculinity. You show muscle, you show domination, you show power, you declare yourself as the ruler of the field. Even in Badminton, professionals with powerful smashes seemed to rule the 20 X 44 feet court. And me with my fragile figure thought I could never make my presence felt. It all changed for me that day, that moment, when my racquet and body did the weird thing of returning the smash. The professional player jumped and delivered a powerful smash, where a little twitch from my reflex made the shuttle drop in his court, before his eyes, before he could react. And his power was humiliated with a ‘behenchodohohoh’. 

Since then, it has not been the same. I discovered words like rationality, brute force, ‘formula’ can be easily trumped in badminton with patience, spontaneity, and dribbling (gentle nudges). All force, planning and rationality can be reduced to ashes with impulse and creativity. And even if you have mastered brute force in badminton, you can learn only when you learn the little dance where you create waves out of yourself. That was when I stopped thinking anything about my relationship with badminton. I had to just go and let my body go off any leashes.

This is where I discovered my feminine side – the side that draws pleasure out of the dance. Sure the game is about winning a point. Sure, a winner is there in each point. But a true lover of the game would want their opponent to give their best shots, would hope them to pick-up even the absolute winners, would love to engage with them in the dance as long as possible.

In a true badminton game, opponents are actually teammates. In fact, they are wing-men to each other in this game of courting badminton. This is the reason why I can never compete. I don’t want to betray my feminine side. I want to dance with my opponent, but not defeat them. I want to make love to badminton, but not use it as a tool to dominate them. Badminton is my path to challenge masculinity for it’s my celebration of femininity. Because badminton is all about – smashing em cocks, dribbling em cocks, nudging em cocks to finally make them eat dust.

Probably it’s time for feminists to consider adding sports into their cavalry for their ongoing fight against oppression and discrimination. Sports, for long thought were the champions of masculinity that breed warriors lusting for glory. Maybe they are. But they are not just that. Sports have the potential to shake up a personality and make them live in the moment. Sports can strip people to their bare essentials. In such a space, if you can get people to love their opponent, it would just be the ray of light at the end of the tunnel.  Badminton. Table Tennis. Squash. Carroms. Hell, let’s create more sports where we lose our minds collaborating and canoodling and caring. Let’s all get to courts and tracks and fields and streets and start the siege on sports. And let’s make sports our high horse. And let’s march towards the light, the white light – peace.

Featured Image Credits: Sri Harsha Dantuluri

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