I enjoy sports – so many to watch and some of them to even play. Being born in a small town, played the village games, like, Gillidanda, marbles to heart’s content. While growing, being an Indian, Cricket was given. Proper sports equipment was out of budget but that was never a deterrent. We played cricket with whatever even remotely resembled a bat and a ball. Setting up a soccer field also was never a problem. A small space at the edge of a playground was good enough. Using Slippers for goalposts had the double advantage. We got our goalposts and we could run around better bare feet.

More resources were available as I left my town for my undergrad. The engineering college had an indoor gym which caught my fancy as those were the days when I was determined to build muscles.  A double bar was also a common sight, those days. I enjoyed exercising on them with onlookers watching it with awe.  We had a ping pong room in the hostel, where I played without worrying about the time of the day or night.

The best period came when I joined my post-graduation at IIT Bombay. That was the first time I experienced a swimming pool. It was fun to learn freestyle and other styles of swimming. It also had a gym and after seeing it I wondered if the one we had in the engineering college was really a gym!

Well, In the excitement, I forgot to say the main thing. Although I flirted with some sports and seriously played some other, I had “two left feet (& two left hands?)” for all of them. I had all kinds of prizes and accolades in scholastics, but I could get absolutely nothing in sports. Leave apart prizes, I couldn’t even cross the qualification rounds! I had actually lost hope a long time back. And then it happened…

I was a regular at the gym of IIT Bombay gym and on one particular day, I noticed that there were special arrangements being made. I was told that the weightlifting competition of the inter-hostel tournament was to start then. Since I lifted barbells every day for my exercise, I thought of taking my chances. I asked the organizers if they could allow me to participate, which they happily agreed to. I learned the basics of weightlifting as a sport, on the fly, and went with the flow.

Later in few hours, I surprised myself by winning a silver medal for my hostel (H7) in my weight category. This and what followed was something that I had never experienced before. The inter-hostel tournaments are fought bitterly and hostel sports teams do everything to get medals. And here there was a surprise for my hostel mates. Some PG (the minority postgraduates) just got surprise points for them, which they had not even factored. My name was on the hostel flannel board in the evening. I was given a milkshake coupon as a reward and got my first-ever certificate in sports, at the age of 24 years! Too late and too little, but it was no less than an Olympic win for me.

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(featured image: Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels)