‘The will to survive, the will to live, surpasses the most adamant challenges in life’.
A sneering smile flashed on his lips. If only it was true!
Sudhanshu closed the book and stretched himself on the arm chair. His legs dangling, arms limp on either side of the chair, head tilted, resting on the head rest. It was apparent that he was either lost in thought or was listless, or was it a dash of this and a pinch of that?
The mid-day sun was sharp and relentless. The rays hit his closed lids and the heat made him shade his eyes with the book, titled, ‘The sunshine’. Using the book as a shield seemed a tad weird, he thought. He has been yearning for that sunshine for the past several months and now…. Shying away from it!
His tired soul was awaiting a miracle that would relieve him of the agonizing thoughts.
‘Nature abounds in wonders, could I pluck one for myself?’ He said aloud. His voice sounded feeble and unconvincing. He knew the present state of mind would only pull him down further and leave him with nihilistic feelings.
‘No, no…. no. These are suicidal thoughts. I sound like a spineless creature!’
Conflicting thoughts criss-crossed his agitated mind. He was at odds with himself.
The dynamic, resourceful Sudhanshu had disappeared from the dazzling front pages of the newspapers. The star of track and field, the sports icon, had become a name of the past!
Does being in the shadows for a few months make someone a person of the past? Have the people put him in the ‘past’ slot? All that cheering, madness, a thing of the past? Will he never again be ‘the champ’?
Where has all that glitter and zeal gone? Why has life treated him so harshly? That one mistake has cost him dearly. Why couldn’t he resist from falling a prey to the cheap tricks of the corrupt officials?
Sudhanshu felt choked. He had sinned against the ethics of sports; he had bartered his soul for a petty …….
Oh, no! How could he? Why did he allow himself to fall for the vile charm of that unknown enchantress?
And realization occurred only after they had cast the dice. He was trapped.
Crestfallen, defeated and humiliated, he had none to blame but himself.
“Sudhanshu, you lazy soul, you have overslept. Ahoy! Jesse Owens/ Usain Bolt, you will surely win Marathon sleeping event in next Olympics…” Subhendu’s teasing tone failed to pull Sudhanshu out of bed.
“I am off to the grounds. Your lethargy will cost you dearly. Looks like you only dream, hardly any efforts to translate those into reality.”
His sermons fell on deaf ears. Sudhanshu didn’t move an inch.
Subhendu glanced at his roommate hoping he would at least stir in his bed.
“Dad, I know…but…. I promise from tomorrow I will join Subhendu in the ground.” Sudhanshu knew his father wasn’t convinced.
Ever since he joined the Residential school the newly found freedom had gone to his head. Neither his father, himself a state-level athlete, nor the school coach could inculcate discipline in him. Sudhanshu was confident that his father’s reputation and goodwill would pave the way for him in sports and he would have an easy access to all facilities related to sports. This wrong notion and belief played havoc with him through his schooling. His high-minded attitude, lack of discipline, lethargy gradually developed into arrogance and obstinacy.
“Himanshu sir, you are a role model for many youngsters. Your achievements in track and field events are remarkable. We feel honoured that your son, a sports star in the making, is our student. We are proud to say that our school has best coaches and Physical instructors. Sudhanshu will be the pride of our school.” Principal Shri. Raghunanadan expressed his happiness.
Sudhanshu, hardly felt any excitement. Anyways he would be the owner of many awards and trophies, with or without the coach, so what’s all this bragging about school instructor and sports coach! His haughty posture and stance did not go unnoticed. His father looked at the principal and Raghunandan ji gave him an assuring nod.
Both understood the that success at middle-school level had made him overconfident and that one trait could be disastrous unless addressed immediately.
“Sudhanshu join your classmates in the assembly hall. I will schedule a meeting with your coach. Let us see what best plan he can have for you. You need to regularise your habits, your fitness regime, sleep and rest time… many things have to fall into their right places. Your academic results too matter, I am sure you understand all the pre-requisites. Taking up sports as a profession requires self-discipline. You must be aware of these since you were inducted into it at an early age. So, off you go now.”
Sudhanshu felt stifled in the principal’s office room. He took a deep breath and walked towards the hall where the ‘so-called’ morning assembly would be held.
“What a pain! Why do all these in the teaching profession talk so much? He could have cut short his preaching session. Disgusting!” Sudhanshu whimpered.
Himanshu looked dotingly at the soft, pink soles of his hour old son. Love swelled in his heart and he planted a gentle kiss on his forehead. The new born clasped his palm and entwined his cute little fingers around Himanshu’s fingers. A strong hold! The softness had strength underneath! A smile spread on his face.
‘My son will be an athlete; I can sense it.’ He proudly announced to his wife.
Sumitra too smiled but felt it was too early to decide about the new- born’s carrier.
“Sumi, you are missing out on the wonderful moments. His first steps…. Oh, what a feeling! How grateful I am to God Almighty for bestowing us with such a delightful experience. Each gesture of my dear Sudhanshu gives me goosebumps. Sumi, where are you? Have you noticed his features? Resembles me -his nose, long and sharp, high cheekbones, eyes like pools…” he was in awe of his son.
“Anshu, it is an amazing experience, no doubt, but don’t you think you are doting a little too much? You speak as though you are the only father in this ….” She checked herself on seeing him stiffen at the taunt.
“I am sorry. I don’t mean to be harsh, but as parents we should be supportive and encouraging but this should not lead to pampering as he grows older. You got my point?”
Sudhanshu turned away after a brief glance at her. He did not go with the word ‘pampering’.
Being an orphan, he had missed out the caring and affection of a family and for him a little pampering was harmless.
His journey to fame was never a smooth one. None to praise or criticise, he longed for a soul that would heal his smothered spirit.
He happened to meet his first mentor, Gurbachan Singh, while practising in the school ground. That was the turning point. Seeing his passion and fervour for sports Gurbachan Singh enrolled him for coaching in sports centre and since then there was no looking back.
He had earned a name for himself in sports field and he valued the respect he had gained in the society. He had begun his carrier in sports from scratch by dint of sheer dedication, discipline and hard work. He neither approached anyone for recommendations nor ask for favours. His commitment took him places.
Himanshu Sharma became a track and field icon. His 200mtr record, his 4×100 relay sprint, Javelin throw were amazing; he took the tribe along with him; for him team spirit was priceless. Though on field he was a contender but his support, motivation and guidance to the other sportspersons outside the field was praiseworthy. His single-minded pursuit of excellence blew the minds of the organisers. The rhythmic movement of his lithe body mesmerised the spectators and they went berserk cheering him.
Sumitra, his coach’s sister, became his soul mate after a brief courtship. She knew the hardships he faced and how he had resolved the challenges that clogged his path.
The new life was a promising one. Her support and encouragement were vital ingredients that kept his dedication alive.
With Sudhanshu entering their lives, equations seemed to be changing. Her only fear was that he could become an over doting father that could make him an arrogant and uncaring child.
She was proved wrong. (She was happy about it)
Himanshu did not hold his little finger to walk him through the garden, he walked behind him to give him confidence that if he tripped, his father was there to hold him. This in fact taught the child not to trip, instead, walk with steady feet.
Sumi’s fears were quelled. She basked in the glory of her husband and relished the toddler’s swift steps towards athletics.
Sudhansh’s first attempt at a sports event at school when he a mere 5-year-old, gave the first glimpses of an athlete in the making. There was a certain style and rhythm with which he ran the race. Though he couldn’t reach the finish line, owing to a sudden twist in the ankle, he was appreciated for his style.
The proud parents carried him back home only to teach him the indispensable lesson of life- never give up, a fall was not a fall until one accepted it as defeat.
On your marks… get set …. go
The track umpire’s voice was like music to his ears. His taut calf muscles itched to fly. He shot like an arrow from a bow. His eyes fixed only on the Finish line where his instructor and coach were observing his movements. His swiftness reminded the spectators of a strong gale of wind that surpassed itself. His sprint was a visual treat and nothing seemed to match the beauty of his run.
As he inched towards the Finish line, the stadium echoed with ‘Sudhanshu, Sudhanshu… our beloved Sudhanshu, buck up, cheers to you….
Their zeal fuelled him. His speed was matchless.
That marked the beginning of his sports career. He had learnt to value the potential of all his competitors; he reviewed the strengths and focused on the weaknesses of the co-athletes. Marking them on the field and working on his own strengths gave him an upper hand in all sports events that he participated in.
Himanshu and Sumitra’s joy knew no bounds when the school announced Sudhanshu as the Sports captain.
Sudhanshu’s career graph was on the rise. His followers on social media praised him sky high. Sumitra’s fears revisited her.
“Hima, don’t you think it’s time to shift his school and concentrate on his academics as well. His focus may waver both from sports and studies. He is a popular figure in the present school. His attitude seems to be changing. A new environment and a healthy competition will make him retain his values.”
Sudhanshu’s lackadaisical attitude worried him. He had to take a decision. Time was crucial and procrastination would only intensify the wrong attitude.
Principal Raghunanadan’s assurance relieved him. He knew his son was in safe hands.
“Sir, Sudhanshu lacks that zeal to perform. He feels he has touched the moon. This attitude will ruin his career. Success is playing havoc with him. With your permission, I would like to be strict with him. If required I will have to take stringent measures to bring him on to the track, literally and figuratively too.”
“Feel free to take the necessary steps to bring him back.”
“Sudhanshu from tomorrow you have to follow this schedule without any deviation. We don’t want to miss a great sprinter because of trivial issues. You are our star. So, let’s us redefine your goals and ambitions. Are you with me?” Coach Sreedhar patted his back fondly.
“Subhendu, take the responsibility of your roommate.”
Himanshu visited the school several times to check the progress of his son and was satisfied to see a changed Sudhanshu. School played a vital role in moulding him and his success story restarted. Sreedhar’s invaluable support and guidance brough him back on the track.
“We are proud to announce this year’s sports icon award. I cordially invite Himanshu Sharma to give away the trophy to Sudhanshu Sharma. A proud father honouring the young achiever is a feast to our eyes. ‘May their tribe grow’.
What makes them an incomparable pair? Their dedication, discipline and values. May Himanshu Sharma’s values guide Sudhanshu.”
Sports Authority chief congratulated the father-son duo and wished them success in their future endeavours.
“Sir, what are the chances of your son getting selected for National Sports meet?”
“Himanshu Sir, are you sure there will be fair selections?” A journalist expressed a doubt.
“Dear friends, trust, honesty and sincerity are hallmarks of our country. Let us not belittle our values by expressing such doubts.”
“If my son is a deserving candidate, he will be selected.”
“Sudhanshu, your selection is confirmed but not yet announced. Keep it to yourself. Since this is a prestigious event, some influential politicians are ready to pay a high price for a place in the team. But our organisation has a code of conduct. Our mission and vision will not compromise on values. So hearty congratulations.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Sudhanshu, there is nothing that money can’t buy. It buys you a sophisticated life style, a luxurious house, a respectable background. Now it is up to you to accept this offer or leave it and live the hand to mouth existence.” The vile politician had cast pearls before him. He was tempted. Values took a back seat. He grabbed the offer.
Himanshu and Sumitra disowned the son who brought disgrace not only to them but also the country. He sold his soul; he traded his conscience.
An unpardonable sin against humanity, against a profession.
Greed for money had cost him his family, his reputation and his career.
He couldn’t face the world. He shut himself, never to come out.
“I will ride, I will fly, chase the wind and Touch the sky.”
His yearning to rise again tickled his senses. A spark seemed to ignite the dormant will to launch himself in the field that he had disgraced. The world had shunned him, but he would regain his lost verve.
“The word ‘Will’ in future tense is used as an auxiliary verb, ‘She will do, he will do’ etc. But when it is used as a modal auxiliary verb it has its own meaning to convey. It asserts -willingness, determination and intention….”
His English teacher’s voice echoed in his mind.
Sudhanshu sat upright and the book fell in his lap. ‘The Sunshine’ he said aloud.
“The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” Bobby Knight
With renewed hope he stepped out into the sun.
Will there be a Take 2 for him?
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