I grew up in Kolkata and went to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Salt Lake, a school which had a huge and sprawling campus. There were tracks for athletics, basketball courts and huge play grounds. Even though I was quite terrible at badminton or table tennis, I was more interested in basketball, high jump and athletics.

In school days, I would make it a point to be a part of the athletics team. I took part in track events and remember winning medals in high jump almost every year. Also, I had once clocked 9.1 in shot put. I don’t know how it happened, but back then in school, it was a big deal. For me, sports is special because it brings people together, irrespective of everything.

My hand-eye coordination was quite terrible and that’s why, I could never fare well in table tennis or badminton, but I would always try. That’s a very important thing about sports. It teaches you patience and also makes your stronger inside. And also, as our school sports teacher, Mr. Dawn, would tell us, sports helps in a healthy upbringing. So I think, every child should be encouraged to play, even if he or she is not good at it, because with time and practice, things will get perfect.

In my student days, I really liked Jonty Rhodes. I remember watching most of South Africa’s matches just for him and he was really good at what he did. Another person who I admired was the late Hansie Cronje. I remember, we used to go to our farmhouse in the outskirts of Kolkata and play a lot of cricket with village kids. I was bad at batting, but I was pretty good with fielding — thanks to Rhodes!

Later, when I went to the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, I would see a lot of my friends playing TT or tennis quite seriously. That’s the beauty of sport. It doesn’t believe in divisions and it brings people closer.

Though I am not much of a star gazer, I remember meeting Vijay Amritraj once, and I still cherish those moments. It was during my college days at Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi. Every Thursday, we had special assemblies in college (yes, we had regular assemblies in college as well!), where prominent people from various walks of life would come and deliver a lecture. On one such Thursday, Mr. Amritraj had come down. Ever since childhood, I had heard so much about him from my father, who was a big fan of Mr. Amritraj. So, meeting him was a special feeling. He was a smart speaker and we were in love and in awe of the man he was. He advised us a lot about sports and education. We were 18-19 then, and at that time, listening to someone like him was a big thing. We were awestruck by his persona.

Sayani Gupta is an actress.

As told to Shayan Acharya.