Lockdown 1 and 2 played out at different levels for Viraj Madappa. One was about gaining physical strength, the other allowed perspective on life and human suffering. They were realms outside golf, Viraj’s comfort zone, and matters perhaps seldom thought of. But now, he can claim there is a lot more that moves him.
Last year, most of the time indoors went into fitness, pack in yoga and meditation among the drills, and most of the physical gains Viraj can count on the golf course are a result of the rigorous workouts — almost five hours a day, six days a week. As for golf, the effort was negligible. Putting on the floor or hitting balls in the garden on odds days.
In prime shape, Viraj Madappa was excited to get back when the Professional Golf Tour of India restarted in November. The results may not reflect so, but in his enthusiasm Viraj did not space himself out and was mentally drained once tournaments started. The reluctance to go through the routine on a tournament week was unlike him and his work ethics, but it happened alright.
Perhaps, this proved to be the focal point why the three top-10s in Panchkula, Chandigarh and Ahmedabad before Lockdown 2 could not be converted into wins or stronger results. Yes, Hole No 8 the week of the Gujarat Open at Kalhaar Blues and Greens wasn’t a pretty sight on the scorecard and made a difference between a win and finishing sole second, but had he been in the zone, Viraj would have negotiated the 592-yards, par-5 better.
Lessons were learnt, so when life on Tour came to a standstill in March again, there was no haste to head back to Kolkata and pump weights in the home gym. The Delhi-NCR Open, the last event before the pandemic swept across the country, had not panned out the way he would have liked, but it did not unsettle. Every task was spaced out this time. Viraj stayed back in Delhi and mingled with friends and even after heading home there was no undue haste.
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Fitness sessions were now twice a week, and a lot of thought went into taking some crucial decisions on the personal front, among them was changing his swing coach. It wasn’t as if Viraj was completely at ease in these uncertain times. The growing frustration over lack of opportunities at home and Asian Tour had him exploring the US through spots at State Opens and Monday Qualifiers on the Korn Ferry Tour.
The plans could have fructified had India not been a no-fly zone while coping with a humanitarian crisis unknown in its independent history. The visa did not come through and it did not make matters easier with the entire family testing COVID positive. But unknown to Viraj, the plethora of emotions he underwent during that phase was preparation for a cause.
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Chastened, the family of four was stirred by the suffering outside and thus was born Mission.Aamra. With the tagline ‘Help Bengal fight COVID-19’, the beginnings were modest in May. But by the time the programme concluded July-end, 50,000 meals had been served along with dry rations.
From daily wagers in a battle for survival to scores of relatives parked outside COVID hospitals in the hope of some news of their kin, to caddies at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, the gamut was broad.
The canvas may have been large and varied but the overriding emotion was the same everywhere, one of spontaneous gratitude. Viraj is humbled. “I had never given a thought about the next meal; the focus was always golf. That’s changed, there is a lot more to life.”