06 April 2020: Do you want to imagine a chirpy Indian commentator never short of an anecdote or energy? Imagine Rahil Gangjee. The man is eloquent, witty and chirpy even on a stormy day. But that is not all. I have seen Rahil cart around like a crazy rabbit for Arjun Atwal and the boys in the Eurasia Cup in 2018. Egging the boys on and getting the captain to all the places he needed to be, the golfer from Kolkata played team man to the hilt, in a fine display of his clear commitment and fond camaraderie with everything golf in India and Asia.
Rahil has been working hard on his game to regain some of his lost blusters since finding his way to the competitive Japanese circuit through a victory in the Panasonic Open Championship. He will draw encouragement from a top ten in the Bengal Open Golf Championship the last event on the PGTI Tour before the calendar dissolved into the disruptive chaos of the COVID-19 contagion.
“We are doing well. I am in kolkata at moms house,” he told me. “So it’s just the two of us. I got stuck here after the Bengal Open. But I’m happier here than I would have been back in my home in Bangalore.”
He could have perhaps used some more golf after a good week in Kolkata, where he finished in T5, just three behind the winner Aadil Bedi and Udayan Mane. But the country went into a lockdown since then to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. “Well , personally I hate it (who doesn’t)! I am a more social person than not. I do like me time and time at home, but this is crazy,” said Rahil. “I miss just meeting up with friends. As it is, I hardly get to meet them when I’m on tour and this has taken that to another level. Another really bad thing that’s happening is my screen time has gone through the roof.”
But it not all frosty and frustrating. “Now that I’ve ranted about the negatives let’s talk about the positives. It’s been awsome to spend time with mom, help her clean the house, sort a lot of things here,” he added. “She enjoys the company (I’m guessing?). We have been listening to a lot of music together. I can’t cook so it’s great for me to have her to cook for me.”
Patience will not be an issue reckons Rahil, though it is hard to believe coming from a man infested with quirky amounts of naughtiness.
“Professionally I’m guessing this is going to take about a week to get out of this routine . But I’m used to it . When I am at home taking a break I don’t touch my clubs for a week at a time sometimes . So I will have to get back to practising and changing my routine as soon as I get news of the restart of the tour,” he assured me.
Optimism aside, expect Rahil to be a straight shooter. He is always candid, even when he needs to say something tongue in cheek. “The difficult part of this is staying motivated to work out and putt and chip every day. The routine is currently out of whack,” he admitted. “Sleep habits are skewed and workout routines are all over the shop. But I’m being able to get in at least three workouts a week. There’s only just that much you can do in terms of drills of the game.
“If I was at home I might have set up a practice net on my terrace garden, but here it is impossible. I haven’t even stepped outside the building my mother lives in. She is 73 and I’m not taking a chance. I end up doing some cardio by running up and down 8 floors in the building we stay in. But overall I’m not too worried about the game going that far off course because I know I can get this back on track soon enough.”
That is a hope, we all share with him. Any Indian victory feels special to me as a writer on the game, but a Rahil victory would always have a special tinge to it considering that he is riding in the naughty forties now.
Meanwhile, Rahil has been trying hard to mix up his days to avoid getting too bored. “The days have been different on different days. Some are constructive days where I get my workouts in and cardio. Some chipping and putting in the living room helps. Other things that make up most of the day are chatting with friends, watching Netflix, chatting with mom and also helping to clean the house and get rid of a lot of stuff she doesn’t use anymore.”
I asked him is he was concerned about the influence of this break on his rhythm. “Well as I have said I don’t think it’s going to be a problem getting the game back on track because I’ve had long breaks before and it’s just a matter of doing the right things for a week before u go back on tour,” said the confident 41-year-old. “Hopefully the workout sessions will keep me in good stead when I get back. From experience, I know that the first thing that goes in the game is the chipping, so I’ve decided to keep in touch with that part of the game.” That last bit could be sound advice too for some of his younger colleagues.
He is also keeping his brain cells active. “I’m reading a book written by my good friend Papa CJ. It’s called ‘Naked’.”
“I’ve been in touch with quite a few of them. Some of us have video chats together and then some are just texting. You know how it is with the golfers, we end up talking shop a lot of the time. The virus is the next best topic and then I’m guessing the economy is the next important topic because all of us are just sitting and losing money. For a golfer or an athlete I’m guessing the biggest challenge is to keep working out even though we don’t know how long this is going to last. With business people, a lot of them are still working from home.”