Copenhagen Airport evokes powerful memories. It’s an intersection, as all airports are, an intersection of incoming and outgoing flights and memories. Just last year, same time, I was at the Starbucks cafe, chatting with Jens, with the Indonesian team (several Olympic and world champions: Taufik, Kido, Setiawan, etc) sitting around playing cards, when someone stole my bag. All my clothes and all the gifts I’d received. The Indonesians were startled, and even Taufik, usually sage-like in his indifference, looked troubled.
It’s a year now. It feels like yesterday. I’m at the airport, headed again for Dubai, from where I’ll catch a flight to Bangalore. I look around… it feels the same. Hendra Setiawan, the Olympic champion, is alongside — he was on the same bus from Odense to the airport. ‘Remember me?’ I ask, and he smiles. He remembers. I recall that long chat with Markis Kido, his partner, who told me he loved Bollywood films and Shah Rukh Khan. “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,” Kido told me, unsure what any of those words meant.
October 2010 morphs into the October of 2011. Jens is here again. He’s a sweet old man, but not as old as you might think, for he still bikes in the mountains. The last time, when I lost my luggage, he drove me into Copenhagen and checked me into a hotel. The next morning, Lars, our media guide at the tournament, came to visit me and secretly paid the hotel bill. I offered to repay him this time but he wouldn’t hear of it.
Taufik is the same off-court as he is on court. He reacts to everything with slightly raised eyebrows, as if he is mildly surprised but doesn’t care. He doesn’t speak much, even to teammates, but that day he was playing cards with the rest of them. Copenhagen airport was packed. Barcelona were flying in to play FC Copenhagen, and there were hundreds of fans sporting Barca attire. They were all dying to catch a glimpse of Messi.
I wondered at the difference then between badminton and football. Here was a living legend, Taufik Hidayat, sublime in his skills, an Olympic, world and Asian Games champion, sitting in plain sight, in Denmark, and yet nobody recognised him. Messi, in any case, escaped with the rest of the team without coming out of the departure gates. I think a bus picked them up directly from the flight.
That was October 2010. I remember the hotel, the seedy streets around it, the cold, the blanketed strangers shuffling in the shadows, and some peep shows around. It was a scene straight out of a dark graphic novel, no humour at all.
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- The intersection of memories… and a stolen bag
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