Before I start my first blog post, I’d like to thank my beautiful mother for encouraging me to write down my memorable experiences in China. Thank you!
Table tennis is hard-wired into my genes. I come from a family of talented table tennis players. My grandfathers (God rest their souls in peace) were great players. I will never forgot one day, when I was an early teenager, when ‘Jaddu Ghazi’ challenged me to a game. I had recently won the a national tournament and was oozing with confidence. I remember thinking to myself, “This is going to be funny.” My dad whispered, “Take it easy, Fahad.”
During the warm up, I won almost every point – smashing several of them. The warm-up didn’t last long though, because Jaddu Ghazi was ready. I won the first few points, building up a nice buffer, when suddenly.. he hit the ball on my side of the table so hard I could barely see it! I .. was.. shocked. My father, on the other hand, was laughing. He had huge grin on his face throughout the match. I also didn’t realise what ‘psychological warfare’ meant till that moment, because that was exactly when it hit me. Jaddu Ghazi got into my head, and eventually won the game. Not only that, he had an amazing move which he pulled off a couple of times: a reverse back-hand smash!
My brother and I spent countless hours playing table tennis together as we grew up, and a few hours not talking to each other because of the outcomes. Most of my aunts and uncles are great players, and so is my father! So anyway, you get the picture. Table tennis is in my blood.
It seemed like just another ordinary day in Beijing, and it was time to go to the gym. Before getting into the workout, I play table tennis. Just as we were about to stop playing, an elderly Chinese man walked in, and sat beside the table as he was preparing his gear. “Do you want to play?”, I asked eagerly. I remember feeling that it was difficult to read his expressions. He didn’t answer my question. He just stood up, grabbed his racket, and served the ball across the table.
I was instantly fascinated by the way he played. His eyes noticeably sparked with interest. He asked curiously, “Where did you learn to play?”. “My father taught me”, I said proudly. “Where do you come from?”. “I am from Saudi Arabia. ‘先生’ (Sir), which city are you from?”. “I am from here. I am from Beijing.” We spent about an hour playing, and we had a blast.
After coincidentally meeting and playing for the next two weeks, we decided to set specific times to get together. I remember that conversation very well.
“李飞(Lee Fei), we should set a time so that we can play regularly.”, he stated.
“先生(Sir), what time is convenient for you?”, I asked.
“Don’t call me ‘先生(Sir)’ anymore. You can call me ‘大爷(Uncle; father’s elder brother).” He replied.
That is when playing table tennis with 大爷 became part of the routine. This is how our relationship began. (2013)