The Tricks of Tread

There hardly lies a choice between the devil and the deep sea for those lined up at the goal-line, as conquering the devil (the opponent) in the midst of the deep sea (swimming pool) is our trade. A trade that we pursue to battle for a championship, to give our best; to make our coaches, our team, our seniors, and our institute proud. A trade that we call ours despite it being much larger than ourselves. A trade that is indescribably thrilling, given the responsibility it lays on one’s shoulders.

In all my fellow swimmers, cutting across the contingents, I have seen an inextinguishable fire despite being submerged in water. A fire that inspires a strong sense of commitment, discipline and dedication. We find ourselves giving in all for the onerous practice sessions, twice a day. Waking up at 4:45 am every morning despite all-pervasive body ache becomes a habit. Relentless laps, numerous shoots, excruciating drills and deep leg-beats become second nature; the sacrifices made on the social facet of life innumerable. Such extra-mundane motivation gets fueled when one sees the reflection of that very same blaze in the faces of our teammates. Quoting the legendary Madras center-forward Abhinav Gopal a.k.a Tokas, who is also an erudite poet:

जब समंदर पार पाना है, तो जहाज़ तो मज़बूत बनाना ही पड़ेगा |

You’ve got to build a strong ship if you want to tackle the sea.

Then comes the day of final judgment, as we stand with a pounding heart on the edge of the arena alongside our teammates. We know that the player standing beside us and those standing beside him are all experiencing the same nervousness. Looking back over the four years of my life as a Madras Shark, I can live to tell that the team’s temperament is critical on such a day. Not to say that being calm and confident is an easy task – given that almost all our fellow contingents have refined their skills, strength, and stamina undergoing an equally arduous preparation. It is an amalgam of the composure of an iceberg and fierceness of a lion that differentiates the champions from the rest.

The plenty of matches that we did win as Madras Sharks stood apart from those that we lost, in the terms of our temperament. In the matches we won, we entered the pool with the confidence and sharpness of a predator. The yearning to quench the thirst of victory and the passion for outdoing others inspired a confidence that enabled us to overturn the scoreboard in our favor in the most adverse of circumstances. One incident from Inter-IIT 2009 stands out in my mind as I write this. Five of the main seven players from Madras were hospitalized due to food-poisoning that year, but even such a condition could not deter them. Without a modicum of trepidation, they marched to the pool with glucose bottles attached to their veins, pulled out the IV needles right before the match and jumped into the pool, beating the rivals 7-5 for a silver medal. This ultimate example of unyielding determination has been inspiring our team for several generations now. I’m sure Inter-IIT has seen multiple such surreal sports moments and every team present at the Meet has their own legendary story to narrate. 

Last but not the least, winning a match or an event certainly gives pride and respect, however, Inter-IIT has much more to offer than just winning. The beauty of this festival lies in imbibing the spirit of sports, playing with honour and respecting our fellow sportsmen and women. The greatest takeaway from this fascinating journey of excitement, revelations and surprises is the everlasting bond forged between friends, both old and new.

Inter-IIT is undoubtedly the best thing that has happened to me. And hopefully, to all of you participating in the Meet. More than winning medals, I have treasured those moments of laughter and of despair, cherished train journeys across the nation, “exposing” juniors to the seniors of other teams, “gulping” food at the gala dinner, dwelling on the chances of finding a soul-mate, and acquiring the wisdom that no matter whether you or your team win or lose, the sport always wins.

Wishing you a memorable Inter-IIT at Madras. This is a Madras Shark’s welcome!

About the author: Anand Parikh, a.k.a. Atyachaar, graduated in 2015 with a Dual Degree in Engineering Design. He has proudly played as a flank support and flank for Madras Sharks for a tenure of four years. He was the insti swimming captain during 2013-14, during which IIT-M won a double gold in inter-IIT Aquatics. His professional interest lies in developing innovative devices for Healthcare and he hopes to start his own venture soon. This article was first published on the IIT Madras blog, The Fifth Estate.

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