Centre Court – Sriram Subramaniam.
Sriram Subramaniam, an IIT and IIM Alumnus as mentioned on the back cover of the book has put in his best foot forward with this book (his second) and it is pretty much evident that he hasn’t left a single stone unturned in this work of fiction. Terrific is the final outcome and I must say the kind of research, analysis and background that he has done for this book is simply amazing. His passion towards the game of Tennis, music, books and movies as well as road trips, everything is pretty much visible for the reader. I myself believe in one thing, that a book or a movie is a grand success (for me personally) if it is able to make me go breathless, choke me up, make me smile, jump in air with my fist going up making a yessss! And make me go teary eyed as if a dream has come true. This one fortunately did it all in one clean sweep and bowled me over by the way it does it. Now tell, how many of you have the memory of India’s victory of 1983 Cricket World cup? I was 7 years old and I can still remember the way my mom was dancing throughout the day and her 32 tooth smile, she could have killed anyone that day if Kapil Dev (the then Indian captain) would have asked her to. People born in the 70’s will understand this in a better way with their own memory of not so long ago Indian victory of the same cup in the year 2011, when we lifted the trophy yet again after 27 years. I have no memory how many strangers I hugged that night and we kept chanting “Indiaaaaaa, Indiaaaaaaa….” throughout the night and that were the scene all over India. Also, how many of you actually stood up when they played the Indian national anthem in Olympics when we won a Gold medal after ages as the Indian national flag went up in the stadium. I have been an avid Formula 1 fan for last couple of decades now and I can still not forget the way I would look up to that man in number 24 (last) in the circuit couple of years back called Narain Karthikeyan, although I very well knew that he will never have a pole position or a podium finish yet he made us proud by just being there and he indeed still is the fastest Indian. This book refreshed all those memories, at lease in fiction it made me live that dream of seeing one of us at the Centre Court in Wimbledon living a billion peoples dream, win or lose it just doesn’t matter. (How? read on).
Terrific story of Shankar Mahadevan from rags to riches in the game of tennis from our part of the world where even an individual game is marred by the internal politics of state and country. The way his dad Anant Mahadevan struggles to fulfill his own dream through his son, by making him a world champion, how they do it or do they? is the story all about. Author is supremely qualified to give us a true story through his work of fiction as his own son is a National level player and I guess that’s the reason the book feels so real, not for one moment makes you feel that it is indeed fiction. The father son relationship and the way story keeps going forward and in flashback from Son as well as Dad’s angle is too good. Although it took me time to get used to it but it all became very interesting to see the same episode through two different versions. How Anant grooms his son from a young kid to a mature tennis player with the help of so many coaches, mentors and experiences is terrific. How the story keeps going back in time is done so flawlessly that not for one moment it gives the reader any respite to put the book down and give it a break. It was almost like reading a perfect thriller so much that my mom actually asked me if I am having a day off as refused to sleep as I just couldn’t help it. As Shankar qualifies for the big event and goes off to play at Wimbledon the Mecca of Tennis If I may call it that. The memory of Centre Court flashed in my mind, Wimbledon for me means a chair umpire saying on PA system “Silence please….. Thank You!!” whilst the greatest of great from Tennis world played each other in thrilling games. I stopped watching Tennis after Andre Agassi retired and now I regret that I unfortunately read this book after the Wimbledon just got over, had I read it a couple of weeks ago, I would have relived the whole memory watching Federer win yet again this time. How far Shankar Mahadevan will go in Wimbledon and what all goes through in his personal life as well as in background makes up for a thrilling ride for the reader.
Brilliant is the way he has explained the whole game of Tennis for someone who hasn’t played or seen the game yet. No spoon feeding but very smartly explained. I had no idea that Wimbledon Centre Court had a glass roof 🙂 got to know that from this book. Another thing that I loved about this book is the character names. Shankar Mahadevan the kid, his dad Anant Mahadevan, chair umpire Eva Mendes 🙂 had me in smiles all through. Plus the music, book and movie references all tell us about the Author’s passion towards them. I was never a Bob Dylan fan but I guess now I’ve got to check his songs out after reading this book, need to know what I have missed. Also, if this book gets proper attention and gets into the hands of right people like our Sports Ministry and people are passionate about sports with some authority, it could do wonders. The way Author has picked up the little nuances of not only the game but the other things too that one needs to keep in mind while making sports legends from our part of the world. It’s so doable yet we have failed to make our mark in International arena even after a billion in population we still have no say in almost any sports barring of-course Cricket which hardly a handful of countries play. This book can be a Bible of not only Tennis but any sport if taken in the right manner. You’ve got to read it and read it some more as Anant Mahadevan not only fulfills his dream but what he does further is applaud worthy and the way he does it, I am sure with right funding and heart in all the right places we can certainly achieve the dream of seeing an Indian in the Centre Court lifting a Wimbledon trophy in very near future. I wish it happens in my life time though.
Have you read the book? Do let me know if you liked it, any other sports fiction from our part of the world that you know of? I do not.