The Punch

‘Punchdrunk’.

I  knew this word and it’s meaning, but never really understood it. It’s possible to know something but in order to understand it, you need to live through it. We all know the word ‘Women’ , but even gods can’t understand them! I understood this term in its entirety in the September of 1994. When I became a martyr for the ‘Gentleman’s Sport’, because of my own cockiness. No. I’m not referring to cricket. I’m referring to the Real Gentleman’s Sport. Boxing. Also I’m not referring to the term ‘Woman’.I’m still to understand them. I’m referring to the term ‘Punchdrunk’.

It was an early September morning in Kolhapur. The wind had a nip to it, but it was not really chilly. I had an inter-versity bout lined up at the weekend and was trying to be in my best form. Engineering students are notorious for their laid back attitude. We never care for anything till the last minute. We whoop around the town, painting it red till the semester is nearing it’s end. Then suddenly, we sober up and clamp down hard. We burn the proverbial midnight oil and pass anyhow. That’s what I call living up! Only asses and geniuses study all the semester! I was neither. The same was true for boxing too. Like music it’s my passion.

Nowadays, cricket is called the Gentleman’s Sport. Actually Lord Arthur of Merrylbone has stolen this title from boxing and gave it to cricket at the turn of the 20th century. I hate him for that!  My Lord Arthur was an accomplished boxer in middleweight category, but it compounds this crime further. How can you cheat the sport, when you are a pugilist! Hell! Archbishop of Queensburry was more honorable than My Lord Arthur. We still follow the Marquis of Queensburry rules in the ring, which were originally compiled by His Holiness. Although, the two ounce gloves are replaced by weight related gloves. I use 18 ounce nowadays as I’m in the heavyweight category at 72kg. . When this instance occurred, I used 12 ounce as I weighed in buff at 52kg.

Tell me, O reader! What would you call a sport, in which two semi naked men shake hands like friends then go ahead and try to kill each other. They don’t ‘hit below the belt’. They respect the adversary when he ‘throws in the towel’. They never ‘let the guard down’. And half dead, they again shake hands and totter away from a 22 by 22 feet ring. Aren’t they Real Gentlemen? And yes. These idioms are a gift to the King’s Language from boxing. Anyway…

I was in the lightweight category and was always fit. But, being fit isn’t good enough for a boxer. You need to be fighting fit. So, every morning at 6 I used to stagger from my hostel and used to go to the nearby Jijai Udyan for a 6 km jog and 30 minutes of shadow boxing. No, I never did it all the year. I’m an engineer, remember? I just started it last week. A fortnight before the bout and was hoping to clear it. Actually, there was nothing spectacular about my training, except few wowed kids looking at me as if I’m a superstar and few disinterested and beautiful girls, who wowed me. All the girls are beautiful, including my mom and daughter. But at the 20th year of your age, they rule you! Today was different.

I completed my ritual of 6 km and went for stretching before my usual 12 rounds of three minutes shadow with a 60 seconds respite, when I saw her. I forgot my bout. Hell! I forgot who and where am I! They say that love hits you hard. But, they never said that love knocks you out with a single punch! I was flat on my back and on counts before I knew! And, my adversary didn’t even know that she has killed an aspiring engineer without  throwing a single punch! She was just doing some weird aerobics with headphones on and exuding death rays around to all the young guys. She must be used to dead bodies as she never even looked around at the carnage she caused!

I started showing off with all my might. Doing shadow within her eyesight. Dancing and showing off my spectacular footwork, of which I always was proud. Suddenly she noticed me and took off her headphones. Then, she sat at a nearby bench and started watching me with interest. Of course, I didn’t know that she’s there. I was an Olympic Level pugilist and didn’t really care for pretty girls. We guys are like this, you know? We will die to catch an eye of a beautiful girl, but once she notices us, we become Maharshi Vishwamitra. We act like we never knew she existed but we always keep checking if she’s looking at us. I was concentrating on my left hook and right uppercut combo and was keeping her in my peripheral vision when I sensed her walking towards me. Suddenly I was numb!

‘Hi! ‘

God’s unjust! I expected a grating voice with such a face. But, it was like a choir practice in a rural church! Like birds chiming in a meadow! Like the tinkling of bells of cows returning home at dusk! I mean, it was just heavenly! Now, He made such a perfect package! Beautiful face with a very beautiful body and such a voice! Look at me! He created her on His week off and I was created just before He was going on break! Hastily put together! Thankful to Him that He didn’t assemble 4 legs instead of 2 hands! I dutifully ignored her. What’s the most beautiful girl on the planet to a dedicated boxer? I danced around with staccato jabs and hooks and suddenly was surprised to see her and stopped panting!

‘Hello!’

‘Are you a boxer? ‘

Stupid question! No ma’am! I’m a singer. Just practicing my vocal cords by dancing! God! Why beauty is always brainless?

‘Yes.’ I forcefully stopped an urge to show off few of my moves.

‘My dad is a boxer too. He taught me a few steps. Would you like to let me practice with you? I’m sorry, I’ll make a fool of myself with such a perfect boxer but, I’m missing my dad and watching you reminded me of him.’

Dad? Dammit! She was just a couple of years older than me and thought of me as a father figure? Hell! I agreed. I decided to let myself go easy and we squared off.

She put up her guard like a novice. Keeping her entire torso and face open. I could have easily walked in like Alexander The Great in his Persian triumph and could have declared a flaming victory, but I just feinted once and threw a jab. I felt my left straight graze her lovely right cheek. My skin was over sensitive and tingled at the contact of beauty! As if under the influence of a hell born heliotropic narcotic, all my senses were heightened and the world was arrested in slow motion! I went in for a light right hook when… WHAM!

She landed a powerful right straight and a devastating left uppercut, which rattled my teeth in my head. We were gloveless and without gumshields.

Once the stars faded before my eyes, I squared off in earnest. She was not a pretty girl anymore. She was a mean boxer. The love was replaced with bloodthirst. Our outlook suddenly changes faster than a dancer changes her clothes when faced to adversity.

I wish I could describe this bout word by word, but I lost it in the second round. Her left jab and right hook combination knocked me down senseless. When I came to my senses, she was apologizing profusely. I didn’t know why! Then I saw that my tee is drenched with blood and realized that I can only see from my left eye. I had a deep gash over my right eyebrow and the eye was swollen shut. But, a boxer is a boxer. I smiled.

‘Boy! You are brilliant, ma’am! ‘

‘Let me take you to a hospital. I’m actually a doctor.’

It took 10 stitches to fix her handiwork. I still have that scar to remind me of the ‘Girl Power ‘! While leaving she smiled and gave a word of advice. A boxer to a boxer.

‘You really need to work on your hooks, you know? They are like a girl’s!’

Since that day I wished that I have a girl! My daughter will fight her some day!

Needless to say. I defaulted from the bout as I was hurt. Amateur Boxing doesn’t allow you to compete if you have a single injury.

I lost a state level bout but won a lesson!

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