Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lapping up Success

This story was my first step to start writing apart from taking pictures for the Times of India - Bangalore edition in 1991. Thanks to friends like Jayant Kodkani, Vinay Kamat and Sumeet Charavarthy who kept their pressure on me to start reporting too. They always insisted that if you need to be an photojournalist, one should get to reporting as well as taking their own images for the stories. It so happened that Ashwini Nachappa was in good form and she was also from Bangalore, and we had to launch the Times City pullout. The story appeared in the first weeks edition on September 14th, 1991.

Ashwini Nachappa pauses between workouts to let hair down. S Shiv Kumar captures the mood in words and pictures.

Lalbagh. 6.15a.m. The rising sun is trying to force its way through the foliage of tall trees to the call of bird song. A breeze wafts gently as the young and old are straining every muscle to keep fit. Suddenly, a winsome lass appears from behind a tree-trunk. She approaches you and then, just as quickly, is gone. The miss is as good as a mile. The next time you try to catch a glimpse of her fleet and fleeing from, someone blocks your view. She's off like a shot again. The third time it's worth your while; she smiles at you. Ashwini Nachappa, the dusky sprint queen, is toughening her tendons. An hour later, she push buttons he black Kinetic Honda and speeds away homewards to Banashankari.
The runner is not lonely. One her way, school –bound children wave at her. Old men out on their morning stroll smile admiringly. Starry-eyed, giggling college girls whisper to one another. The golden girl of athletics is also a sliver screen figure. Posters of the Telugu film Ashwini are all around the town. Film pundits say it’s the only Indian movie featuring a sportsperson that has clicked.
For Ashwinin, the celluloid presence was "a way of keeping in touch with the public". There are no two ways about her preference. "I don't plan to do any other film right now. Perhaps after I retire…. My director tells me movies are the best way to maintain tie with the public", Pragmatic thinking follows. Citing the case of P T Usha, she is stoical about the fact that someone else will take her place in the near future just as she took the mantle of fame from the Payyoli Express.

"I didn’t do much acting I this movie. It was mostly running. I'd like to prove that I can act", she adds with determination. But right now, it’s back to the starting block.
On he sport, she plans to retire while she’s on the perch. So, a lot would depend on her performance his year, based on which, she will have time to decide till the end of next year. Although she has been running for eleven odd – some of them very odd indeed – year, one can never say anything. Yet, confidence oozes. "I have everything. I am proud of what I am today. I have come up the hard way in life and I know that I will get better things in the years to come.
Flashback. She jogs he memory to 1974. Unable to commute to and from school in the hustle-bustle of Calcutta, she came to Bangalore with her mom and elder sister Pushpa. "Dad stayed back with job at Birla Rayons, where he still is." The mother and daughters lived bang I front of Kantreeva stadium, where she used to rush in the evenings after school. A coach, Mohinder Singh, who watched the sisters playing, egged them to run around the track, with the bribe of one sweet for every lap. In he annual school sports meets at the Good Shepherd's, where the sisters won track prizes – was a smooth transition. And a discovery of talent. The first national appearance came in 1980, bringing in its wake an award from the state government. From then on there’s been no looking back.

Tastes. Bangalore appeals. Paani puri and sea food as well, though she 'in' so far as dresses are concerned too: saree for special occasions and to the office (Vijay Bank main branch) when there's time to dress up, other wise jeans and Bermudas and khadi kurtas. Truly dietropoltian in her habits, she can converse in English, Hindi, Coorgi, Kannada "and a bit of Tamil and Telugu". Her love for the city shows when she declares: "I have no intention of moving out of this city, unless of course marriage takes me elsewhere".
Hold it . The big day is not round the corner. She chimes with a laughter describing the 'man' - "somebody who is rich enough to take care of me, a sports lover, not necessarily a sportsman." There's no one on her mind yet, and she tells the guys "Hard luck!" But no snobs for her, only simple, "down to earth" men with a sense of humour. Didn't you hear that one before?
She hopes dreams could come true. Visions of a big farmhouse with a pool, three or four of the latest cars, the works … Sigh, there go your dreams.
While driving her car named desire, she stops by at places of worship. "I am God-Fearing. I also go to the church, have prayed from outside a mosque." To a certain extent, she maintains faith in astrology: "I did go once she says."
Faith has got her many awards and this hope will run for a long time to come.

1 comment:

Deepakbellur said...

"Driving her car desire .." ! Seeking to remind us of Tennessee Williams? Nice write-up. Tell Ashwini that 'Sense of humor, 'down to earth' clashes head-on with 'rich' and is in a way a 'contradiction in terms'!