It was on March 7 or 8, during the Six Red National Snooker Tournament in Ahmedabad, that our inboxes got the message: the world body had deferred all events till June 30. There we were talking about travel plans for the high-profile World Matchplay Billiards in Leeds—at the venue where I won the world title in 2018—in April when things ground to a halt.
One after the other tournaments in the Asian circuit then started getting deferred. The Asian six red, Asian snooker and team snooker, all scheduled in Qatar in March and April, were postponed and instead of living another month out of a suitcase, I was home on March 11. With zero activity in the world of billiards and snooker, home is where I will be till the end of June. It would be the longest that I have been at home since 2002 when I played my first national championships.
I am used to an active life. At this time, I would be thinking of the next game, the next tournament, of representing India. But suddenly you have so much free time and things are so quiet that they leave you rattled. It is still taking some getting used to. To not play just doesn’t fit in when you have always been told that the cue is an extension of your arm.
I can’t return to the table and resume from where I had left off. If I don’t keep my arm going, I am not much better than a novice. If I don’t play for a week, I feel completely at sea. So, I need to train even if it is for at least 30 minutes every day. Because when things improve, I need to be ready. If I stop now, it would take me 20 days after resumption to get my rhythm back.
The only exercise I am doing now is some running on the track at home. That is important because even if I drink water and don’t run, the bulge starts showing.
The good thing about this situation is that it gives me time to play table tennis, something I love a lot but don’t often get time for. Had it been normal service, I would have been training two-three hours in the morning and for the same duration in the evening with my father Manoj (world billiards champion in 1990). The running would usually happen in my morning session. Table tennis would have to wait.
I am also reading more and faster. Vince Flynn’s ‘Separation of Power’ is taking up my time now and I find it riveting. Family time in the evening means catching a film, a TED Talk—I was fascinated by the one by Bill Gates where he detailed the massive economic fallout from a crisis like this—or the news on television with specific focus on financial markets. Like many in the time of Covid-19 scare, I too have been spooked by the film ‘Contagion’.
The virus that has altered our lives so has also got me connecting or reconnecting with friends all over the world, finding out how things are in their part of the world and telling them about how they are in mine.
(As told to Dhiman Sarkar)
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