As a kid, I never really thought I would get involved in sports, maybe basketball, perhaps long jump, but most certainly not high jump or sprints. I don't know if it was some lucky coincidence that we met for the first time on a day when I was in jeans and t-shirt (which make me look taller than when I was in school uniform) but I still remember the day you told me that I had a very good height and I could make use of this natural advantage of mine to shine in sports. I had come to you that day as an errand girl, but I left as the newest recruit on the athletics team.
After two months of rigorous training, you decided it was time for me to test my skills in an athletic meet. Everybody (including myself!) was skeptical. A rookie high jump athlete. No chance! Yet I walked away with a bronze medal that day... my first ever accomplishment in the field of sports, my stepping stone to a journey that would ultimately earn me 50 medals, half of which were gold, and eventually lead me into state level meets for high jump and long jump. You were so proud of me, I remember, you showed me off to the principal as the PT department's latest achievement! She was speechless!
I never looked back since. You were the most awesome coach ever. You and I both know how stingy the school was when it came to budgeting the PT department's requirements. We had minimal equipment. Just barely enough to tide us all through. Heck, we didnt even have a decent changing room so we could all get into our sport gear at the end of a school day. But you found a way to make the best use of the resources that we had. I loved the days when we would do our weight training instead of the jumps. It always prepared me to be a stronger person. And I am so glad my main event was high jump, because I was always inspired to push myself a little more than I was actually capable of, trying to raise the bar, literally and figuratively!
I grew up with the PT department. And before I knew it, you were planning my future for me. A long time before I was old enough to be a "senior", you trained me in sprints and shot put too. Why? Because once I became a senior, I would be eligible to be considered for championships in all the athletic meets! But for that the requirement was to participate in 2 field and 2 track events at least and get the highest number of medals. I remember the first meet we went to after I became a senior. We won!!!! I got the championship and you were so happy that day because the championship boosted the school's points and we marched on to victory!
I bet you can never forget the Olympiad meet that we had, 200 schools participating. Most schools went back empty handed, but ours didn't. Its simply because of all the faith you had in me.
In school, the "coolest" student is the one who ultimately becomes the Cultural Secretary in the student leader body. The sports secretary is known as the most popular person (Indian version of the quarterback!) and the school pupil leaders (aka head girl and head boy) were both the most popular and the coolest people. Thanks to you, when I was in 11th standard, I became the most popular kid in school and in 12th, the most popular and the coolest kid!
I am pretty darn sure one of the main reasons NUS took me in was because of everything you had trained me for. People knew who the heck MG was because of everything you had done for me. I was the sports star. Otherwise I would have been just another nameless face roaming the corridors of high school. Today, whenever I go to the gym, I think about you, think about all the sophisticated exercise machines around me and miss our primitive version of the "gym" that we set up for the students with the limited money we had.
You fought for sports in a school which believed that sports was a waste of time and distraction from the oh-so-important state ranks in 10th and 12th. You fought with all the other teachers to keep your athletes on the field instead of losing them to books 24x7. You motivated the athletes to excel both in studies and sports. You believed in our potential. You proved that sports could also allow a student to soar high. Unfortunately, all your arguments keep falling on deaf ears.
I heard today that you met with an accident and that your spine is injured. Mobility will be limited. And I cannot even begin to imagine how you feel about it. When I had my knee injury and eventually realised that it was the end of my life in competitive sports, it shattered me. But that's just a small knee injury, I really can't imagine what you must be going through now.
I have never ever told you what you mean to me or how grateful I am for all that you have helped me accomplish. Even though nobody in school would agree to this statement, but a big part of the reason why I am at this place in my life is you. And there is no place on earth I would rather be. But you don't know any of this. Just a visit to school twice a year from an old student just doesn't send the message across, about how deeply this student appreciates you.
Sitting here, I feel helpless. I wish I could tell you all these things. I should have told you when I had the chance last summer. But its not the end. I am praying that the next time I come back there, you'll still be around in the field for me to tell you these things. Every teacher deserves to know how much of a difference they have made in a student's life.
In our case, I really hope its not too late....
Your loving student,