Why I'd rather throw a tantrum like Djokovic than call it quits


Ambica Sachin

Published: Mon 2 Aug 2021, 9:13 AM

She was brilliant with an IQ that set her apart from the rest of the batch.

The class topper who was the envy of the backbenchers. The one who consistently scored the highest marks in all our annual tests.

For someone so intellectually gifted, her attendance, however, was abysmally low.

It took me a while to figure out that while unravelling the most complicated mathematical formulas and learning by rote a rambling Wordsworth poem was a walk in the park for her, she never ever sat for a test she was unprepared for.

While the rest of us were winging it at the surprise class test announced 24-hours prior, she just never turned up if she felt she couldn’t score the top rank.

I was reminded of my former bestie (we unfortunately lost touch when I could no longer keep up with an absentee friend) when all the brouhaha erupted over sportspeople stepping away from the arena at the crucial minute citing mental health issues.

It started with Naomi Osaka and then Simone Biles. I even got into an argument on social media with one of the most affable people I know, on whether we should be lauding behaviour that extols walking away from a situation we feel ill-equipped to handle.

Shouldn’t the message be to stand up to the challenge and attempt to overcome it rather than refuse to face your fear?

Having taken part only in a few random track events in school, where in a running race I once came third only because everybody else had dropped off in between, I am definitely not an expert on the topic.

World class athletes, like Olympians, are in a league of their own, their physical stamina often a reflection of their mental fortitude.

Theirs is sheer talent supplemented by extreme personal sacrifice, single-minded focus and endurance, and a lifelong dedication to a sport that could easily derail lesser men.

Today spectator sports also transcend into the social media arena where the brickbats can come flying much more ferociously.

But not all of us can refuse to enter the boxing ring called life as and when the occasion demands it.

You could be at your weakest, the most vulnerable you have ever been; emotionally fraught and physically depleted; but walking away from life’s challenges isn’t always an option afforded to many of us.

What we can do is build a mental bubble around us into which we can retreat and hopefully recuperate when the going gets tough.

But quitting is never an option. Just showing up is half the battle for many of us.

Even if you behave like a petulant child who flings his racket around like Novak Djokovic, being human is preferable to aiming for the perfect score, which we could easily programme robots to achieve.

It is our human frailties — the tears, the tantrums, the despair — that sets us apart and makes us real.

I wish I could convey this to my long-lost friend caught in a Sisyphean pursuit of perfection like many of us.

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