We were going to have a fun-outing at work. On a weekday afternoon. "Yaay, awesome," I thought. Then the venue got posted. Some place which sounded very much like a place which would have bowling lanes, pool tables, video games - the works. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Would I really have to bowl?
My first experience with bowling was sometime during my undergrad. That time, it was a new- fangled thing in Chennai. Me and a couple of my friends went for it with great excitement. To our major surprise, for utter novices we played quite decently - even managing "strikes" at times (though we did not know the official terminology then). Only later did I realize that the reason for our marvelous performance was that the railing next to the gutter had been raised. Apparently, the bowling alley owner had thought it wouldn't be good for business if customers got discouraged by balls rolling off into the gutter. So much for believing to be naturally gifted bowlers - hmph X-(! Anyways, I think I played once more in Chennai after that.
After that, it was straight to Davis. There, I confirmed my previous suspicions. I simply sucked at bowling. Without any railing to disuade the ball, any bowling ball I threw invariably found its way to the gutter. Even a bowling ball which started off treading the straight and narrow path would abruptly change its mind just as it was about to strike a pin and docilely roll off into the gutter. My friends blamed my technique - but I am quite sure the Bowling Gods hated me for some reason. Still, a stray ball now and then would actually strike some pins - so in spite of the teasing I did not really mind going bowling. Bowling was good fun, really!
Then, after I moved to the Bay, during some trip I made back to Davis, a motley gang of ten of us went to the university games center for an evening of bowling. After some initial ball-meeting-pins action, *each and every* ball of mine started going right into the gutter. Without exception.
The nine others who started off teasing me mercilessly soon realized that here was someone in dire and urgent need of bowling lessons. Of course, while playing a non-team sport in a non-competitive environment, there is nothing better than offering advice to hapless novices. Thus I hear nine voices at the same time: "Bend more", "Your arm is too twisted", "Swivel a little", "Turn at the hip". Had I followed all those instructions, I would have probably stood in front of the bowling lane like Ash in that impossibly twisted pose in that poster from Taal (with hands down though).
So, after a point, I stopped heeding any advice. With great self-consciousness, I played worse and worse under the relentless stare of nine pairs of sympathetic eyes. Let's just say that night wasn't the proudest moment of my sporting life. Anyway, after that episode, I declared that unless I practised and improved, I would go bowling only when accompanied by close friends and close friends only.
So you can imagine my apprehension about the team-outing. The last thing I wanted was a ring of people I work with on a daily basis to surround me and start tossing bowling instructions from all directions.
Today was D-day. When we arrived at the venue, ta da: no bowling alleys! But all the other regular fixtures were there - air-hockey, ping pong tables, pool tables, fooz-ball, volley-ball - the works. My colleague invited me to an air-hockey game at once. I started off saying "Oh, I don't play that well" and then whipped the puck right into his goal :-))! From that point it was war - turns out I don't suck blatantly at air-hockey. It was good fun playing with different people. Then I learnt pool (make that re-learnt) - I sucked big time, but I did feel posh (like "rich" people from old desi movies :-)). Then tried my hand at ping pong (again, not too bad). Must say I had a whole lot of fun. Its true - its not about winning or losing, its about how you play the game.
Or in my case, how you enjoy the game :-)!