Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nostalgia: A 58 years old table tennis table

This table tennis table at Olavipe was made in early 1950. It could be possibly one of the earliest at a private residence in Kerala and one of the oldest still in use. Now the fourth generation is beginning to play on it.

In Death of a Priest Turned Layman. I had described about the TT table at our family’s Private Oratory (exclusive church - see A Kerala Tharavad.). That was where my two directly younger brothers, Mathew and Joe, and I learned the game.

Then we got our own table. After the wedding of our elder sister Mariamma (Mrs. Mathew Alapatt) in November 1949, the many wooden planks used for temporary tables were stashed away in the ‘thadi pura’ (timber shed). One of us thought of using a few of them for a TT table and Appan. agreed.

Enter Paramu, one of our regular carpenters. This short, fair and talkative chap was bored with run of the mill work. He loved a challenge, new ideas that he could transform into near perfect creations in wood. He took the measurements of the table at the church (I don’t remember from where that one was acquired) and went to work.

A couple of months later, after listening for hours to Paramu stories, we had the table. From then on, every available minute was spent playing TT. Mathew and Joe were very good and did well in State level tournaments. Later they became recognized players at Loyola College, Madras (Chennai).

Mathew had an attacking game and could hit effectively on both flanks. That pushed me into a defensive mode. Joe played an all-round game. We were inspired by the Indian tour of Victor Barna (five times World Champion) and Richard Bergmann (four times World Champion).

I think that was prior to the 1952 World Championships which was held for the first time in Asia, at Bombay. Appropriately, Hiroji Satoh of Japan won the men’s singles at that tournament ending the years of European (read Hungarian) domination of the game.

'Pings’ and ‘pongs’ were part of the sounds of our home for years. Incidentally, when the game was invented in the late 19c by the British, it was known as table tennis. Later, for a while, the label Ping Pong was used. It reverted to the original name when the Table Tennis Association was formed in England in 1926.

Now serious games on our table are rare. That is why it is kept in an outside shed with sand floor. But our grandchildren are growing up and whenever they visit Olavipe the pings and pongs would be back again.


Photos: Table by me; it may be freely used by anyone provided that the caption ‘Table Tennis (or TT) table at Olavipe’ is given. Image of stamp is from Wikimedia Commons; it is in the Public Domain.

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