2019 BLIND TENNIS MUMBAI

Here we go again. When I left Delhi last year I thought that would be it, a wonderful country with amazing people that I would always remember and maybe come across at a Future World Championships some years later. But then a young blind man (B1) called Ekinath got in contact with me and Davinder and all that was going to change.  

Photo of Ekinath sending down a serve

Photo of Ekinath hugging a tiger!!

I'm with you. Things have escalated,a tiger! This man must be a little brave!

Photo of Ekinath tandem parachuting through the Alps

Ok,hes gone up in your estimation again. Jumping out of a plane with absolutely no eyesight,fair play!

Photo of Ekinath cycling by himself

Ok,now its going to the downright ’what you up to mate?’ stage!! A blind man cycling by himself. But this doesnt surprise me. The first i heard about moving echo location is from an amazing man in America called Daniel Kish. You should look him up. He uses echo location (which in simple terms means he makes a sound with his mouth and he then hears his sound echo back to him like human sonar from whatever objects are close by) to warn him of moving objects and obstructions in the road. Heres the link!

 

 

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But anyway,lets get back to business. These is the tennis courts we will be delivering blind tennis to the players and coaches over the next few days

Night-time photo of the tennis courts in Mumbai

We landed in Mumbai this morning at 11am after a superb British Airways flight (still looking for an upgrade to first class for the return leg). This year we bought along our own charity case (tennis coach) Michael Blease to help us deliver to more players,coaches and children than before. It was so tough to leave behind Rachel and Myla at the airport but at least this year I have a travelling buddie!

Picture of me and Michael on the plane

Photo of Myla giving me a goodbye hug

Video of Myla waving to airplane

Mumbai is amazing. Like Delhi last year, the traffic is crazy!! People everywhere. Our driver Parin laughs at Michaels face when he experiences it for the first time. We travel to the tennis club where we are staying, have a quick nap and then off out to dinner with Davinder and his wife Neelam. Vegetarian food = amazing, well at least here in India,not so much Northern Ireland. The best dishes tonight were Chaat Platter and a mixture of small dishes where the Paneer won. Michael went for the extra spicy dip, told him to avoid wearing white shorts tomorrow!

Video : At least Mumbai a bit quieter at night

Photo of the Chaat Platter

Photo of the main course. Paneer is the dish to the right of the rice.

Thats us for Day 1. Tomorrow we train the coaches all day, starting bright and early at 9am, which in India means me and Michael will be there for 8.55 and everyone else 9.30. Thanks for reading!

DAY 2 - Training the Coaches

Good news to start, Michael wore blue shorts. Rice Krispie Cereal Bar taken and off to start the day at 9am. When we get to the courts,all the courts are busy. The coaches tell me they do all their lessons 7am-11am as it gets too hot after that, doesnt fill me with confidence as we are training the coaches today from 9.30-4.30!! 

Picture of all the coaches we are training today

The first thing we do with the coaches is explain to them the sport of Blind tennis and teach the rules and the court size. My favourite thing is to blindfold the coaches so they can experience what it is like to be blind. 

Then we move on to the progressions of B1 (totally blind) with some coaches blindfolded acting as players and the others as coaches.

Video of coach throwing ball up and player finding after 1,2 or 3 bounces


Video of coach throwing ball up and B1 player finding when it bounces after 1,2 or 3 bounces

Video of B1 coach throwing ball from further away to player

Then we teach the coaches the adapted forehand swing for B1 tennis. 


Video of Ekinath (real B1 player) hitting forehand

Video of Toni (real B1 player) hitting forehand

Video of coach blindfolded hitting forehand

Then we sit down for lunch which is a striking resemblance to dinner last night. Uh oh Michael, hopefully he chose the non spicy sauce today. 

Picture of todays lunch.

It is so hot after lunch, temperature stretching to mid 30’s on court. We teach the coaches the serving progressions of B1 tennis, how to set up competitive fun games and how to safely take care and coach more than 1 blind person at a time using rotations. We are expecting 3 blind players to one coach tomorrow so this is most important

Video of blindfolded coach serving over net

What a day. Absolutely knackered after a day in the sun we are not used to in Ireland, David from Delhi is here today and his friend Dr Thomas invites us to go and visit his college. We kindly accept and thats where the fun starts. We have 30mins to have shower and then off we go, first stop a gorgeous Church

Picture of outside Cathedral

Photo of inside Cathedral

Then Dr Thomas said lets stop for a beer in a famous local bar named the Leopold. Now if anyone knows their Mumbai history they would have tweaked on straight away but we had to find out ourselves when we ventured in

Photo of outside Leopold Cafe

The Leopold Cafe was one of the first sites to be attacked during the 2008 Mumbai Terror attacks leaving many dead. The table we are seated at has bullet holes still in the wall,scary stuff. This is also the first place we have seen non-indian people. The indian people seem to be proud to show it off as a sign to the terrorists that you cant put us off and we will always remember what you did to our country. A total of 166 people were murdered in the co-ordinated attacks. 

Photo of Kingfisher Beer we had inside

Beer finished, mixed nuts at table avoided, we move on to the Gateway to India, the most famous monument in Mumbai

Gateway of India with the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in background

The sea behind the Gateway to India was exactly where Dr Davinder left India for Britain as a child, taking 3 weeks in 1954 by boat to travel through the Suez Canal and across past Egypt and the Mediterrean and up via the Bay of Biscay to their new home. A staggering journey. 

Dr Thomas is again proud to show the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the terrorists main target in 2008 where they held hostage many guests. He shows us the window where he says the Indian Special Forces man killed and threw the first dead terrorist out of to the street below

Picture of the Taj Mahal Hotel

We then jump on a bus where I must crouch to get on (I am a tall freak to the locals) and David and Thomas take us to the main Railway station which is a beautiful Victorian Building you can see in the video below

Video of Railway Station and Municipal Building

Photo of St Xavier’s College

Thomas takes us up all the locked parts of the building to a beautiful chapel at the top and then takes us to his PE hall where he hopes to take blind tennis in. It’s the size of a badminton court which is perfect. He shows us his dissertation......

Photo of Dr Thomas’ dissertation

Wow indeed, it was the first manual written in India for teaching physical education for intellectual disability. Dr Thomas is an amazing man who gives up his very limited free time to help those that are disadvantaged in Indian society.

 

We get ourselves locked out of all the gates we have just come through and have to use the staff lift (one of those small ones you close the door over for yourself) to come back to the ground floor. He takes us through the dance floor and on out to the busy Mumbai streets again. Hard to imagine such beautiful quiet building beside such crazy busy roads.

 

Last stop of the night is for dinner. Thomas takes us into a very small restaurant/bar where he knows the owner which Thomas says is far enough away from his college that the kids are never drinking here also!! Orders another few pitchers of Kingfisher Beer and fried chicken. Now we all know the rules,don’t eat fried anything from dodgy establishments but when it comes to the table it looks and smells so good. The Indians call it crispy chicken but it is salt and chilli chicken for all those non-Indians reading. My fav so all rules out the window!!

Photo of Crispy chicken

We polish that off and of course Thomas orders more food in Hindi we have no idea what it is......

Photo of Fried fish

I draw the line here. This literally looks like a goldfish fried. They ask Michael to eat and yes Michael has never refused food in his life so in he goes biting off the tail first and then nibbles the sides as instructed by Thomas.

Photo of whats left of Mr Goldfish

Next dish anyone?? Thomas and David literally have a 5minute talk/argument with the waiter about what to order and the last dish lands on our table....Triple Fried Rice

Photo of Triple Fried Rice

Now this one I am eating,it looks right up my fried street. It turns out to be Chicken Fried Rice with a big plop of egg on top,tasted amazing. Anyway,food ate,beers and coke drank and off in a taxi back to the tennis courts. An amazing day, absolutely cream crackered. Tomorrow we expect around 20players so a big day ahead for our newly trained coaches!!

DAY 3 - PLAYERS DAY

Up early after a long night trying to get my blog published after coming home from our epic trip, the internet went off and never returned so apologies for the late posting.

 

We arrive at the courts at 9am after our daily Rice Krispie Cereal Bar and Michael is a bit worse for wear today. I stopped drinking after the first pitcher last night like a sensible person after a day in the 33 degree sun but Michael can’t say no to anyone and continued to an undisclosed amount for legal reasons. He delves in for his first coffee of the trip and we have a sit down overlooking the courts.

 

The coaches have been working from 7am again after finishing their lessons after 9pm the night before. We set up 2 B1 courts today as we don’t know the exact breakdown in classification of the players so we may have to adapt on the spot. The players start arriving and we take a players photo

David has kindly arranged for the players to have the correct footwear and has bought them trainers for the tennis over the next couple of days. All the players sit down and put on their shoes. There is a very balanced group of players which is good to see, some young and not so young and 8 females which is very important here.

 

The coaches start their first task to show the players round the court and it does horribly wrong. After teaching them all to always take the players round the right hand side of the net you are facing so to avoid collisions, they all forget under pressure and do their own way causing at one point 12 players and 6 coaches on one side of the B1 court. They are avoiding injury so I let them sort it out themselves,only way to learn. My confidence in them was high at the beginning of the day but this is not a good start but onwards and upwards.

 

We move on to first tracking progressions and the coaches nail everything perfectly, players progressing faster than expected. Only an hour in and we are flying. Time to bring the rackets out and test their tracking with hitting the ball. The B1 players are amazing, throwing themselves around the court literally, Yousef asks for his knee pads from his bag, this player came prepared, love it. It is now clear to see who is not B1 and luckily there is no one else playing on the courts because of the heat so we split the players up. 10 B1 players on 2 courts, 8 B2’s on 2 courts and 2 B3’s on the last court. This is the most amazing sight

Video of 22 players across 5 courts

They are enjoying themselves so much and there are a few handy players already. Maybe India can make a late entry to the June World Championships!!

Video of B1 player returning with very good technique

It’s lunchtime,Michaels favourite time, he literally finishes his lunch in 5minutes and we rest for 30mins before everyone starts again. In the afternoon, we set up fun competitive games where the player scores points for getting the serve in, and returner scores points for returning in. For the B3 court they are now playing full matches against the coach and against each other. Time flies in and it’s 4pm already.

 

We retire to the room and Parin knocks on and wants to take us to the local supermarket. Out we go and 4 cans of coke later we are back. Quick change and we take Parin out for dinner to a local restaurant called Delhi Dorbor. The menu is fantastic and Parin says we have to have a Chicken dish so we pick a Butter Chicken dish which turns out to be a bit spicier than predicted and the most amazing Butter Naan and Garlic Naan. I ask why can’t the Naan back home taste like this and Parin tells me that Indian restaurants back in UK are mostly all run by Bangladeshi and Pakistani’s which I never knew, Davinder agrees with him about the local Northern Ireland ones so there we go, learnt something new today. Michael enjoyed his dinner so much he forgot to take pictures but luckily Parin took a group snap

Best picture of the day goes to this one though.....

Michael giving a grilling

I always thought Michael was a nice Coach but this definitely is proof otherwise, it looks like he is absolutely taking this coach apart for something. He promises me it is one of those unfortunate snaps and he was being as nice as usual! That’s what all the celebs say!!

 

Anyway,off to bed and tomorrow another big day for the coaches and players. We continue technique training for the players and are running a competitive afternoon of modified matches for them which will be followed by their certificate prize giving and a visit from the High commissioner to watch a few exhibition matches. Ekinath has told the players the best ones will be picked for this so enthusiasm is very high for tomorrow’s play!! Keep sharing the love for blind tennis everyone!!

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