I played hockey for Madurai University (now, Madurai-Kamaraj University) and briefly for Tamil Nadu; and was employed at the Customs and Central Excise Department (Chennai office) under the sports quota. In 1983, I got a transfer to Madurai, my home town. That year, Elizabeth, an athlete, joined the Chennai office.
I was posted to the same section and assigned the same table where he had worked. I was peering into the files and records that bore his signature. But we did not know each other.
She was a member of the 4 x 400m women's relay team that won a gold for India at the first South Asian Federation Games, held in 1984 at Kathmandu. From 1983 to 1986, she was a dominant force in the 100m and 200m sprints and the 400m hurdles at the State level. Thanks to such popularity, she was featured in Tamil magazines. One day, a photo of hers came home as a result of a marriage alliance.
When I went to Madurai for a track and field event, I had surprise visitors. As I placed my feet in the blocks and got ready for the run, I saw a clutch of people who did not fit in with the rest of the spectators. It was his family... As our two children grew up, running behind them was the only running I could hope to do. Parenthood was fulfilling beyond my wildest dreams.
Dark clouds gathered over our happy family life in 2006. One problem after another visited us. When the year neared its end, we were overtaken by a catastrophe.
First, I slipped off a swivel chair and broke a shoulder joint. In this condition, I took part in a relay running contest at a church get-together. My daughter Sharon advised me against running. I allayed her fears. Bur, during the run, I hit an uneven surface, and severely injured a leg. I had torn an Achilles' tendon. Doctors said I would walk — with a limp. A shattering news for someone who ran for the joy of it!
Then, our son Mervyn developed a herpes simplex eye infection. As it had affected the retina of his right eye, his vision was severely limited, and he experienced excruciating pain. The day before his Calss XII Maths exam, he underwent an intensive day-long eye check-up. Sharon, a Class X student, would read his lessons for him before each exam. She told me: ‘Amma, I am more thorough with Class XII portions, than my own.'
I lost my dad that same year. And then, my daughter died one day without any warning.
For a year, I was moping around, and could not go to work. Though I found the strength to resume life, a part of me is still in pain. After a protracted treatment, our son has put his illness behind him. And, I have proved the doctors wrong — I don't limp anymore.
We will always bear the pain. But, as sportspersons, we know we have to fight the odds.