Rahul Tripathi's jawan connection

Rahul, son of Col. A. K. Tripathi, in his younger days, would accompany his mother to visit injured soldiers in the Paraplegics Rehabilitation Centre. He calls on them again while launching the 'Supergiants for Soldiers' initiative.

Rising Pune Supergiant's Rahul Tripathi takes a selfie with the soldiers at Paraplegics Rehabilitation Centre in Pune.   -  Special Arrangement

The Paraplegics Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) in Khadki houses soldiers who're hurt during combat. On Sunday, the jawans, in various stages of treatment or rehab, played wheelchair basketball. They wheeled furiously to get into position for a shot at the rim or to collect a rebound as the ball bounced off the board.

Among those who cheered them was Rising Pune Superginat's Rahul Tripathi, who was here to launch the 'Supergiants for Soldiers' initiative. He accompanied his mother Saroj, who was carrying some fruits for the soldiers. This wasn't Rahul's first visit though.

Rahul's father, Colonel A. K. Tripathi, who has a house close by, explained: “I am posted at the Command Centre where each person is assigned one initiative. Helping out at PRC was given to me, and my wife got involved. She fasts on certain days in a week. I suggested gifting fruits (to the soldiers) on fasting days and her visits became regular.”

Rahul, then playing in Maharashtra age group cricket, would accompany his mother whenever he was at home. He formed a bond with the with jawans. Meeting the mom and child gave so much joy to the jawans; they responded with blessings. Tripathi Senior believes Rahul’s career took off after those fruit-laden visits to PRC.

“After a visit, he scored heavily in the next match. I feel those blessings were working. The donations began from 2011 onwards. He kept coming here and success in cricket continued.”

The RPS’s batting sensation is happy to spend time with these familiar faces.

“I take away positive energy from here each time. Their courage to overcome difficulties is inspiring,” he said.

Stylish strokeplay, partnering Ajinkya Rahane or Steve Smith, has made him a fan favourite at the MCA stadium. Rahul's the only player from Maharashtra in the RPS line-up.

The opener returned to PRC as a celebrity of sorts, clicking selfies with the combat veterans. His father, mother and sister looked on proudly as he mingled with jawans from different parts of India.

The 'Supergiants for Soldiers' project, announced by the team's CEO Raghu Iyer, will support the jawans at the PRC. Ketto, an online fund-raising firm, is involved as well.