“Squeeze your core in, use that power, bend low and then try to make that spin”
“NO. That’s NOT what I just said. FOCUS. Bend low Neha. Low. You are tall, you need to be low all the time”
Faster, yes, tak tak tak, faster Neha, tak tak tak, I said go fast, yes, 10 more seconds, …, 5 more, 4, 3, 2, 1, boom!
“I am dying coach, please no more”
You want to win the Championship right?
Tak Tak Tak, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 10 seconds push ups, 20 seconds crunches, and a 30 second plank. And then you can pack up.
“Someone save me please”
“I heard you, make it a 1-minute plank”
Been almost 6 months I haven’t heard this. Yes, this was a typical day at training with my coach.
This is what I did for almost 16 years. Trying to get better day by day. Honing all those skills so that I bring laurels to my country. My family. Myself.
But I had committed myself till the Commonwealth Games 2014 ( didn't make it) and the Asian Games 2014 ( i made it :-)).
Then continued a series of long and lost moments, thinking all by myself, wondering what to do next.
What am I supposed to do with my life? Is it just quarter life crisis? Maybe.
But I was thinking of something else too. I was thinking of all that I didn’t have and all that my counterparts in the West had. We don’t have swanky stadiums, an established collegiate system, funds to train and in general an open mindset to pursue sports.
I asked myself, Neha, don’t you remember what Mahatma Gandhi once said, “BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE”.
I am in the middle of a quarrel with my parents over a night stay at my friend’s place which they are not allowing and then suddenly, beep beep- an Email. I graciously ask them for a “Time Out”.
And it read: CONGRATULATIONS! Your application has been accepted, Welcome to Columbia University, in the City of New York!!
And there I was, on 31st August 2015 at Lerner Hall, during Orientation, with 65 other students from 21 different countries, different cultures, religions, beliefs and experiences. All together under one roof with one common passion- SPORTS.
Since then, its been 5 months, and each day is a new learning experience for me. Each day I feel that this was the best decision I had ever made in life. (Oh no, maybe all those decisions that I had made in between the games during the 2008 Olympic Qualifying tournament were the best?)
I have met the best names in the industry- David Stern, Mark Tatum, Billie Jean King, Harvey Schiller, Sachin Tendulkar and so many other such people.
I have been pushed outside and far away from my comfort zone. I have been exposed to a new life all together- from an athlete training 8 hours a day, to a student attending classes, brainstorming ideas and meeting deadlines.
Student life is hard. When you have to learn Corporate Finance, its harder. When you have to make a PowerPoint presentation in front of an audience, its even harder. When you have to write about Rugby in the US its terrible.
Living all by myself in an unknown city with limited funds doing something I had only dreamt of, is sometimes scary.
But that’s how you learn. Every single day.
And cook. Pasta. Daal. Paneer. Aloo. Chhole. I have my mom’s cooking talents :-)
I was reborn at 26. New city. New people. New teammates. But, the same goal in mind—bring glory to my nation. But this time, not as an athlete, rather, as a successful sports business professional.
Sport gives you the courage to dream big and take risks. The Columbia experience has made me believe that those big dreams would come true. They are preparing me to face the battle. Sooner or later, when I step into the battlefield, I would be ready for it. To play my cards well.
I see the Tricolor go high, and Jana Gana Mana play at the background, athletes saluting our flag, and myself, somewhere at the corner, in tears of joy!
One day. SOON.