A Fiction
by
Vani Venkatesan

John Xi, a Chinese national badminton player, struck and wounded two policemen who intruded into his girlfriend's home. Fearing for the injustice the system might impose on him, he had to run. In the flight, he met a mysterious fugitive, who deeply involved in the corruption charges of some high-ranked officials.
If you feel that the story does not make sense, it is because it resembles the reality too closely.


Chapter 5

Tiger Mom

January, 2009.
    Varshi Surangi, who retained her family name after marriage, lived with her son, Shivam Turner, and her husband, Edward Turner in a suburb house in Northern San Diego of California. It was not a typical American house which has a front yard, and a backyard with walks at the sides. Nor was it a town house squeezed between neighbors. It was a very old but splendid house consisting of many rooms, built along an elliptical curve, surrounding at the center a garden with miniature idealized landscapes designed for contemplation and meditation. Between the garden and the rooms was a customized patio, which wound around the garden, with chess and game tables located near the center. It had a gate, painted black, with a shinny white brass knob on the left. The gate opened onto a narrow curved pavement composed of tiny rocks, like a Japanese garden trail, which passed through the patio and reached every part of the garden. The patio was connected to every room of the house, all on the same floor: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries, wardrobes, kitchens, living room, laundry room, and dining room. Among the rooms, one was dedicated for playing table tennis and badminton, one for business meetings, and in one of the rooms lived a gardener, who took care of the garden and miscellaneous house maintenance tasks. With dark skin, dark eyes, curly hair, a thick black mustache and ruggedly handsome features, the gardener---Diego Galvin---resembled one of the many Hispanic gardeners who work in America, doing gardening work such as mowing grass, trimming trees and repairing sprinklers.
.........................
    Varshi always felt that there are tremendous opportunities in America. A few years ago, she was at the peak of her career, a project leader of an important product of a high-tech company. She was facing the dilemma about whether or not she should channel all her energy, powered with her ambition, to advance her career. When she read a proposal from two former colleagues, inviting her to found a new high-tech startup, she felt herself inflated. Wild fantasies arose in her mind, and she saw herself become Entrepreneur of the Year, Hero of the Age, donating huge amount of money to charity. On the day she was convinced that the startup would be largely successful and was about to sign an agreement with her friends to launch the company, a shadow descended from her college life pulled her back. But also deep down in her crouched the spirit of a pure scientist, who loves to work with her own hands, not the hands of others to command. While she loved and enjoyed the honor of achievements, she was not fond of great wealth. Her moderate house with a diligent gardener was her dream and need, not a house swollen to a palace. Most importantly, her love for her kids rose above all other thoughts. Instead of striding forward in her career path, she retreated, abruptly quiting her high-paid job to focus on her kids' education.

......................

    Shivam went to talk to the kid and came back with glistened eyes. ``Mom, you are right! He received training in China in the past three summers. How did you know? You had never seen him before!"
    ``It is observation and deduction, something you have read about in Sherlock Holmes," Varshi said, laughing. ``From what he wears and how he behaves, I can say that his family is fairly wealthy. Why did he fan himself using his paddle? It is never hot or humid in San Diego. He fans himself between points not because it is hot, not out of necessity but as a habit, which takes time to acquire."
    Shivam nodded to show that he followed her reasoning.
    ``Where did he pick up such a habit? It must be from a place that is hot and humid and has poor air conditioning. Such a training place won't be in America or in Europe and for a middle-class kid like Leon, the only place that's worth enduring the uncomfortable hot humid environment during long training sessions is China. Don't forget that the Chinese can coach you any style: European, Korean, Japanese or Chinese."
    ``It is clear to me now," Shivam said, nodding again.
    Beaming another warm smile, Varshi said, ``Son, observation is very important to play well in this sport. Look, this is Coach Rajul's paddle. Go to tell the tournament officials that I have his paddle. He will come back to look for it later today."
    Staring at the paddle, Shivam asked,``Was his name written on the paddle?"
    ``No. There's no mark on it!"
    Puzzled, Shivam shook his head. ``Then no way, Mom. I did not see Rajul today and he had not entered any event. How could this be his paddle?" he argued.

......................................

A Ping Pong Table

    After a while, Edward asked, ``Varshi, I don't understand. The wage of a Chinese software engineer is only one fifth of yours. Why does Joyce hire you to write codes?"
    ``That's because I am at least ten times, may be hundred times, more productive than an average software developer, regardless of his nationality. So obviously it is much more cost effective to contract me to do the work."
    ``Is Joyce the president of the company?"
    ``Yes, she is the founder, the owner, and the president of the company. She is the smartest person I've ever met."
    Edward laughed incredulously. ``I thought you are the smartest!"
    Varshi grinned. ``Not compared to Joyce, who holds a Ph.D. degree from CalTech! She is a great engineer!"
    ``That's why her company prospers?"
    ``By itself," Varshi said, ``technology know-how is not always enough. Joyce forecast the Chinese political climate quite well."
    Edward was amazed. ``Is forecasting politics important in business?"
    ``Not only important, it is vital for the survival of a business in China."
    ``I remember now. Joyce came to visit you about a year ago. She must be discussing some difficult technical issues with you," he said, suddenly showing interest in his wife's work.
    Sipping her tea, Varshi thought for a moment. ``Yes, she came a year ago but we did not discuss anything technical nor did we talk about any project."
    ``Then she must be on a tour to America and dropped by to see you."
    ``No, she specifically came to California for the sole purpose of seeing me. I was stunned by her sudden visit."
    Edward gazed at her, face full of confusion.
    She continued, ``When we met, she abruptly asked me to cut my ties with two Chinese businessmen. I was amazed because the two men were introduced to me by her and we had been cooperating well in a few projects. At first I thought there might be some conflicts in business activities between Joyce and them but she insisted that it was not so.
    She explained, `Recently a new mayor named Sue has been selected in the city where I own a factory that produces the products you write the code. In an important conference, in which Sue was supposed to meet with the city's foreign investors, he was unexpectedly absent. His representative announced that Sue injured his back in playing water polo.'
    I was totally confused. `How does the injury of Sue relate to the businessmen?" I asked in bewilderment.
    She said calmly, `I doubt that any politician like Sue would get injured because of playing water polo before an important meeting. President Obama likes to play basketball, which is much more combating, before a crucial conference, but he never gets injured. Indeed, a couple of days later, Sue attended some public activities and looked totally normal. It must be that something special had happened and Sue wanted to use the announcement to convey a message to the world.'
    I looked blankly at her, trying to grasp the thread of reasoning. I am always proud of my observation and deduction, but I could not deduce anything significant from the announcement.
    Seeing my startled expression, Joyce said with a friendly smile, `The message is simple: hurting his back means someone was literally stabbing his back, secretly harming him. But who was the stabber? The game that injured him tells the answer. His favorite game is table tennis but he got hurt in water. It turns out that the last and middle names of his mentor, the former mayor of the city, are Hai and Run respectively!'
    I was further confused. `I may be very obtuse, Joyce, but I fail to see how the names of his mentor have anything to do with water!' I said.
    Laughing heartily, she said, ` Hai in Chinese means sea, which consists of an abundant of water, and the Chinese character of Run, meaning lubricate, has a water root. Moreover, water polo involves swimming. It happens that the middle name of Hai's secretary, who implements his policies, is Yong, which could mean swimming. So I conclude that the new mayor was stabbed by Hai in the dark and there will be a big fight between them. I anticipate the faction of Sue will win. The two businessmen have very close relation with Hai, like that of lips and teeth. So we need to break our ties with them and have to act immediately.'
    Though I was unwilling to do so, I promised her request promptly without any hesitation. Joyce left with her heart at ease and flew back to Hong Kong that night.
    .........................
    ``Son, you are scintillating! Did you have a good time?" asked Varshi, smiling.
    Shivam said, eyes brightened, ``Yes, I played Marvin!"
    ``Who is Marvin?" Edward asked, smiling awkwardly.
    Varshi said, ``Marvin Miguel, nicknamed Caballo Oscuro---the Black Horse. ..."
    Shivam said, ``He came over to offer me 4 points handicap. I was eager to play him but I did not have any money. Then Diego encouraged me to play and he would pay the 50 dollars if I lost. I bargained with Marvin and he agreed to give me 6 points handicap, with which, my confidence skyrocketed and I determined to beat him."
    Smiling, Varshi asked, ``Did you warm up?"
    ...................
    "My fighting spirit was high. With six points handicap, I felt I had a chance of beating Marvin. I fought hard from the very beginning but I lost in deuce in the first game. I was disappointed and discouraged. In the second game, I did not try as hard and played some loose points but luck was on my side. With a few lucky shots, I beat Marvin in deuce in the second game. I regained my confidence and played well in the next two games. Marvin won the third game and I won the fourth one. Every game was very close.
    In the fifth game, I served first, starting with 6-0. But it was discouraging that Marvin got 7 points in a row, leading me 7-6. I felt hopeless and was about to give up, but with some luck, I somehow won the next two points to bring the score to 8-7. Still I thought I was going to lose because the chance of me getting 3 points before him getting 4 points was very slim."
    Nodding and smiling, Varshi said, "I agree. He certainly would win. He might have dumped two points to maintain your interest. I guess he would beat you 11-9."
    Shivam continued, ``I did not have any confidence to gain another point, unsure what kind of serve I need to use. I was thinking about various scenarios, hesitating and restless. The thought of losing descended on me. Mom, you told me this before. Just as a spinng ball that gets trapped on a carpet keeps spinning for a while, and it then gradually slackens and comes to a stanstill, so does my fighting spirit. Once the losing mentality creeps into my mind, the wheel of my fighting will still revolves but slowly and hesitantly it becomes heavy and sluggish and eventually comes to a halt. I felt a burden settle in my mind, and felt as if I were wearing a pair of lead shoes, heavy to move and sluggish to hit. I had a strong urge to rush through the game, hoping I could win by luck, hitting a couple of net or edge balls. Without much thinking, I was about to throw the ball up to start the serve. Then I caught a glimpse of the homeless man waving at me, signaling me to call a time out. His signal seemed to remove the heavy burden from me, as I temporarily forgot that he never visited the club before, let alone play table tennis there. When I walked over to him, he was asking permissions from Marvin to let him teach me a couple of serves before resuming the match. With full confidence, Marvin promised promptly as his main interest is to hook me to play him. The homeless man did not really teach me any new serve."
    ``He might not even know table tennis. He might simply want to use the excuse to buy some time to help you to regroup as he was a friend of Diego," said Varshi thoughtfully.
    Shaking his head, Shivam continue, ``No, Mom. He fine-tuned two of my existing short serves, an under spin and a topspin, adding his exaggerated prelude motions to the serves. When he serves an under spin, he swings his arms forward but he swings sideway when serving a topspin. However, he explained that its the final contact between the ball and the paddle that determines whether the serve is under spin or topspin. I practiced many times the two serves with the prelude motions. He explained a few more things and told me what serves I should use. Then he whispered: `Interchange the two prelude motions in the match.'
    While he was coaching me, Marvin sat on a bench, eyes half-closed, pretending that he didn't care about the coaching. In fact he is a very careful player and I am sure he was watching intently.
    When we resumed playing, the score was 8-7 with me serving. I swung my arms forward, which was supposed to serve an under spin, but I changed it to a topspin at the contact moment. Marvin popped the ball high and I smashed it without mercy to bring the score to 9-7. He evened the score with his own strong serves. At 9-9, I started the serve by swinging my arm sideway. Marvin thought it was a topspin except that I had changed it to an under spin at the last moment. He flipped it into the net and now I led by 10-9."
    Feeling interesting, Varshi said, ``If I were Marvin, I would not anticipate any of your serve. I would simply take it as it comes."
    Shivam said with a dose of excitement, his voice raised, ``Mom, that was exactly what Marvin did. However, everything fell into the homeless man's calculations. At 10-9, I served a fast long side-under, my best serve, toward his body. He hesitated a little and returned it with backhand, which was a little soft. The homeless man had precisely predicted where the returned ball would land, and had orchestrated my movements to smash it. No mercy. I told myself. I stepped around and smashed it down the line with all my might and won the match. A loud roar broke out from two dozens of spectators.
    ..........................

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