Amma made us find our own way in sport. She did not come with me to the ground for training from the early years in Khadki. She has never witnessed a hockey match live when I played for my club (Indian Airlines) or India. She watched hockey on TV. I am referring to this because when I was chosen for the Khel Ratna award in 2000 by the government, she received the award from the president of India on my behalf. It was my happiest moment.
I was in Germany playing league hockey and requested special permission so that my mother could be present for the awards function and feel the joy of when a son gets the nation’s highest sporting honour. Amma is a simple person with simple tastes. She had never travelled far from home. So, for such a person to receive the Khel Ratna, standing on the red carpet as my name and achievements were read out, made me very happy. Every young sportsperson, boy or girl, should credit their parents for their success in some way.
I was fortunate to spend the longest time with Amma in my childhood. I went with her to the market to buy vegetables, on visits to the ration shop. During those walks in Khadki, she talked about what life teaches you, being honest and keeping away from deception. She also knew sport was our way to make a living, having grown up with sportspersons in her family and on my father’s side. Even though education was important then, we got the encouragement at home.
I was very attached to her and I still am. No day is over without a phone call around 9.30pm, chatting about how the day went for both. It is a routine not only for me, but for my brothers Ganesh and Ramesh and their families. I miss being with her at home during the lockdown. She tells me to be safe and assures me about not stepping out.
My favourite dish? Fried fish and mixed matki bhaji . Her cooking is special.
As told to Nandakumar Marar.
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