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To grandpa with love

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Veteran table tennis player K. Balasubramanyam
Veteran table tennis player K. Balasubramanyam

At 76, Balu is still young at heart that yearns to see popularity of table tennis touching new heights

At an age when most people prefer a cozy easy chair to relax or spend time with peers and go nostalgic, this septuagenarian is a rare breed. This 76-year-old… (Oops!) young K. Balasubramanyam, affectionately called Balu in the sports fraternity, is busy as a bee, passionately involved in the promotion of his first love – table tennis. This six-feet-something imposing veteran is a familiar figure in the table tennis hall imparting the little ones a stroke or two and helping the administrators to popularise the game in various schools in city.

Balu was bitten by the table tennis bug when he was around 20 while pursuing his post graduation at Baroda (now Vadodara). “I witnessed an exhibition match between an Indian and Japanese paddler and I was awe struck at the speed at which the game was played. I started practicing at the Baroda Railway Institute with a Barna racquet. I have been associated with the game for more than five decades,” says Balu, who teaches the game to kids at Delhi Public School.

After joining the Western Railways at Baroda as ticket collector, Balu represented Baroda Division in several railway tournaments. He was also actively involved in the administration of the game as joint secretary of the Baroda Table Tennis Association.

Balu's transfer to Vijayawada Division in 1964 gave him a chance to interact closely with members of the Andhra Pradesh Table Tennis Association and Krishna District Table Tennis Association. “I gave up table tennis for a while to pay attention to my growing–up kids. But once I was retired from service in 1992 as chief ticketing inspector, I made a re-entry with gusto to help the game grow in Vijayawada.”

Balu firmly believes that an active mind and body can weather any adverse situation in life. “I get immense pleasure watching kids play. I cheer them up with words that help them go the extra distance to excel. I feel as if I am interacting with my grandchildren,” says the eloquent veteran, who wears many a hat including that of a technical adviser, an umpire, a chief referee, a coach and a sparring partner.

Balu shaped many a career of young paddlers. Prominent among them are Arundhar, who represents Indian Railways and Pradeep, a coach in Dubai. Balu represented India in the world veteran championship at Norway in 1996 at the age of 62 and returned with rich experience.

Says APTTA secretary S. M. Sultan: “We need such selfless individuals to promote a game. Even at this age, he never shrugs off his responsibility. For many young paddlers Balu is a grand father-like figure.”

Balu's command on English has catapulted him to a most sought after commentator and compere for the majority of sports events held in Vijayawada, especially in badminton and table tennis. May his tribe flourish.

J. R. SHRIDHARAN

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