Timeline--> Jan 1994
Place --> Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi
Event --> All Delhi roller skating championship
If you read carefully, you must be thinking that i got the date wrong... If i were you, maybe i would think so too.. But few people around me know, that one of the first things i learnt to do in life was skating. (The second thing was chess, which took me places!!).
I learnt to skate when i was 4-5 yrs old. It must have been a very funny sight, to see me walking around on skates way back then..I was stick thin, and used to walking around with those big skates on my legs everyday after school. I weighed a bit more than a feather,they must've been as heavy as me!! Soon i got pretty good at it.. The meek, puny little silent boy in school, used to turn into a rowdy with the skates on.. There were even incidents when i whacked a few people who irritated me while we were skating...The moment i put my skates on, i was ready to fly..Nothing could stop me, cos to stop me, they first had to catch me!!! My skating sir realised this, and soon i was going to skating competitions...
And so, we reached Talkatora stadium.. It is this huge place in Delhi where the National games (or maybe asian games) took place a few years ago..I'm not sure, but basically, it was this HUGE place with sports facilities of all kinds.. But those two days, it was all about roller skating..There was figure skating, couple skating, roller hockey, and the most anticipated event, speed skating!!
I was 6 yrs old (in 2nd class) and was taking part in the under-8 category. Most of the people who came there (including the kids of my age) came with coaches, and all fancy imported shoe skates, with flashy skating gear and helmets and elbow pads..It was all that a little kid could dream of! Though, inline skates weren't popular back then, so it was all normal flat skates...On the other hand, i was in my normal skates (the extendable types, into which you put in your shoe and tie it)...I went there with my grandfather, and was the only person who didnt have a coach around! It got me all nervous for the whole thing, thinking about all the fancy stuff they had!!
On the first day, were the heats. The qualifying rounds for the competition. In both the heats, i did very well, and qualified without any trouble. The next day, we went back, and the morning round was also not much of a problem. I had already reached the finals!!!
Between all this, were the other competitions of figure skating and stuff which were very nice to watch! But then, i was never really the graceful type, so i sucked at it..I still cant dance if my life depended on it!! Then came the roller hockey....That day, i saw this guy from my school break 6 hockey sticks in one game!!!!! This show of violence led to hockey being the only game I've never tried, and never wanted to try!!! The game is tooo bloody dangerous!! you have mad people wielding sticks and whacking the ball all over the place with nothing even close to any safety equipment! As if its not bad enough that you can get whacked by a ball,,people can even break a stick on your head!! After the violence, came the speed skating events of the 'big' kids. It was very exciting to watch, with the skaters zooming around the track, almost in formation(the competition was so close), and the screech of skates at every turn.. All you could see were flashes of fluorescent whizzing by!(Strangely, most of the skaters used to wear bright coloured slacks while skating!! maybe it is so that the shorts don't rub against each other slowing them down.)..In short, a treat to watch!
Then came the finals. My race started, it was 10 (or 15 laps, i don't remember exactly). I started of decently, with only 2 guys ahead of me. Over the next 2-3 laps, i overtook them. Soon, i was leading the pack and gaining! I was getting all happy that i might actually win this!! There were 1 left, and i almost had 3/4th lap lead. I was pretty sure i would win this and started enjoying the cheering of people around. But just then, my right skate opened up!! The nut which holds the skate in size had gotten loose, and the skate expanded. The front part of the skate came off my leg!! I was left there, dragging the skate on my strong leg, and pushing along on the one skate that i had...Halfway through the final lap, i was overtaken. When i was about 10 feet from the finish line, i was overtaken again...It took all my effort to get to the finish line before loosing even 3rd place...I finally came in 3rd..And there would never have been an unhappier kid who came 3rd in an all-Delhi championship..I couldn't believe i had lost..Despite clearly being the best, i lost, just because i didn't have the fancy shoe skates that the others had!!
After the race, my grandfather and my skating sir congratulated me and then tried to console me. During the prize distribution, i stood there, smiling cos of the attention i was getting, but sad cos i lost. But when the chief guest gave me the prize, he said "You'll win next time. Best of luck!". That made me feel much better, that even the chief guest thought i should've won. Looking back, I'm pretty sure he said it to everyone who didn't win! But then, thats the beauty of innocence of a kid!! I got this BIG medal!! This was an actual medal. It was very heavy, seemed like it was made of proper bronze. It had Delhi roller skating inscribed on it, and to date, it still looks as good as it did the day i got it.
But then,,,there is one thing, that made this day, a day that i will never ever forget....
On my way back home my grandfather bought something nice to eat for me. And I came home, proudly showing off my first big prize to everyone! Everyone was very excited about it. Then i went to and showed it to my dad. He was under heavy cancer treatment, he was very very weak, bedridden and couldn't even talk. But when i showed him the medal, his face lit up, he smiled, picked up a paper and pen that was beside him, and on it, he wrote in capitals, (in huge letters, filling up the whole page)
"EXCELLENT!! KEEP IT UP!!"
A few days after that day, he passed away. Its been 15 years, and this was pretty much the last thing i remember him saying to me. The memory of the great man saying those words to me, is still crystal clear in my mind....I try to live up to it, in whatever i do....
He will never be forgotten....
"Overcome your sorrow,
Never forget to follow your dream to gain the smile that comes with victory..."
- Seishi Kishimoto