Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Township Tales - Sports Enthusiasts

There was a man (not in our township) - let's call him SM Sir. He was upset by the lack of stress on sports in his sons' school, and decided that he would start a sports group for children. He called it ASHA (Academy of Sports, Hobbies and Athletics). His sons' friends, and their friends joined the group, and soon, it reached our township. Since there was a lot of space for games, and we had indoor games in the Community Centre too, SM Sir started coming to the colony, and soon, he had recruited many of us into ASHA.

Some parents were hesitant, saying that it would interfere with their children's studies, but SM Sir was great at PR - he convinced everybody, and his enthusiasm was really infectious. Many of us joined. My parents were thrilled with the concept, and my sis and I needed absolutely no convincing to do - they said Yes almost immediately. There was a monthly fee for membership. I don't remember how much it was, but it was quite reasonable.

He would come to the township nearly every evening, and we played all kinds of games in the lawn. He taught us rules for all the games that we so far had just played blindly. He taught us tips, and tricks. He introduced me to Table Tennis. I hadn't even held a TT racket before he came on to the scene. And once I picked up a TT racket, I was hooked. To this day, it remains my favourite game, and I have only SM Sir to thank for it.

Besides games, he trained us in fitness. Every morning, he would expect us at a field about half a kilometer from our township. We would rise at five, drink something, get into tracksuits, and a group of us would go to the grounds, and there, he would make us warm up, and then jog round the field as much as we could. He kept an eye on each of us - he made sure that we increased the distance periodically, according to our ability.

After about an hour or hour and a half, we got back home, bathed, ate a monstrous breakfast, and then went to school. I don't remember ever being tired at school. Just very, very fresh.

This was perhaps the fittest period of my life. I was about 12 or 13. I had the stamina, I had the strength, and the energy. And the interest. I cannot believe that I rose at five every day for so many months. The mornings were beautiful. The sun rising, the birds chirping, the crisp, cold, morning air biting our cheeks, and a group of us friends, young, spirited, happy, quite sure that we were training to be the next Flo Jo.

We went on a couple of treks too, to hills around Bangalore. Those were wonderful experiences - something we had never done before. Once, we walked all the way from Malleshwaram to Kanteerava Stadium, through the greenery of Sankey Tank. We "trained" at the stadium and had a great time. After these outings, we always returned tired, but very enriched.

He also organized many events. We regularly had potluck dinners, or parties on contribution basis. We even brought out a simple, cyclostyled monthly journal for a time, where we were the writers, editors, everything.

And apart from all this, of course, we grew better and better at sports. Because of my experiences here, I got many prizes in school too. There was one year, I think the ninth standard, when I won prizes in running, relay, shot put, long jump, and TT.

I would have won in high jump too, hadn't our PT teacher insisted that I jump without my specs on. I told him a hundred times that I needed to see the bar which I would have to cross. But no. He said my specs would fall and break, and he wouldn't be held responsible. I told him that I have done all kinds of acrobatics with my specs on, but no. He refused to let me participate with my specs on. Duh. I ran and directly hit the bar instead of jumping over it. No, my eyesight wasn't, or isn't that bad. It is just that I didn't get the right perspective to plan my jump. Hmph.

Back to SM Sir. Does anything in India work without politics? Some people in the colony raised objections about the dust we kicked up playing in the lawn. So the management forbade SM Sir from coming to the colony, or some such thing. Bang. He lost out on a place where he could conduct ASHA's activities. He started having it elsewhere, many, many kilometers away. We were too young to travel so far, and going every day was out of the question.

We gradually lost touch with him. A pity. I wonder where he is now, and what he is doing. I hope ASHA is still functioning in some form or the other, and giving kids some respite from sedentary school life.

Next: Celebrations


Wunderyearz said...

TT is my "SM's"favorite game too.....

Those days were truly so great,when we would not feel lazy to wake up early if we had an intersting routine waiting.

You are such a great story teller that I just go back to your childhood days and feel like a big part in it.......Way to go

Kadalabal said...

wonderful wonderful and people like SM sir will have to face such resistance and I am happy it happened after you all had a really good time with him nice narration as usual and inspite of your sis with you u r keeping date with your blog great going keep growing much more in the


Abhinandan said...

good one shruthi

Raj said...

This is a lovely series which you seem to have thought through, to the end. You are able to plan out in advance and mention, at the bottom, what's coming next in the series!

Chaitanya Hegde said...

I liked the article 'it's a lomg way to Tipperary..'Kailasam was an interesting personality.

Abhipraya said...

Wow you had some good times with SM sir. We need more of his kind what with boring lives and no space to jump around for the kids!

Sachin said...

Hey Shruthi, its always a treat to read your posts!! Take this as a compliment: when I read your "Township Tales" series, it somehow reminds me of Malgudi Days - especially the Swami ones but just lacking the sarcasm RK Narayan had infused into those stories. Really love the idyllic picture you have painted. Am sure many of us can identify with the various incidents narrated by you. Take care. Wish S and you and of course Puttachi a very Happy 2008!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Shruthi,

Good one! Deserving tribute SM sir .. we had some of the best moments at A.S.H.A. I got in touch with SM sir some 4 year back .. you would be glad to hear that he is still going on with A.S.H.A activities.. although the names has changed. He does a lot of environment-related work lately..

-C (Bhel)

Subhash Mahajan said...

I am SM! There are exaggerations to my qualities. It was a `mutual show'. The BHEL township kids were my first experience with a community. We had `fun' - that's a lot we can say - for today the kids hardly have any opportunity.

I am coercing school managements to put up basketball courts - some I have put up on my own - my basketball students are crazy about me. I am crazy about them.

SHRUTHI - THANK YOU! I suddenly believe that I am right absolutely.

makarand joshi said...

Shruti, thanks for the blog that u have written to express your gratitude towards your SM Sir. Your SM Sir seems to be a truly great man, who, despite all odds, fought for the benefit of the society. If you see he plight of today's children, you will call yourself lucky because you had SM Sir.

What I wud suggest, its time to PAY BACK by carrying forward the activities of SM Sir.

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