The story of Santhi Soundarajan - A forgotten tale
Life is not always easy, is it? 7 years hence, I am reminded of a sobering tale that ignited the fury of a nation as much as it destroyed a human. Rolling back to 2006, the Asian Games which were held in Doha went by as it usually did.
The usual roar of the crowd was not wavering for the Chinese this time. A 25-year old Indian was making waves in the games as India held it head up high. Since the reminiscing memories of P.T. Usha, you wouldn’t really associate India with athletics? Would you?
But there she was, a person who had faced life at its worst and was determined to succeed. She had known hardships more than anyone else. The dark face of life was fighting an inevitable battle with her. But she was not carried away by that. She stood firm on both feet to achieve the impossible.
But reality betrayed her. A nation which was showering praises at her, within seconds started despising her. Destiny’s favoured child once, an enemy now. It was the lost pride and shallow prejudice that kept this woman from greatness, which shred her apart into pieces from which she never really recovered.
Those legs which should have hit their stride at London 2012 are now suffering in the heat and grim of Kathakurichi. Hands which should have been receiving the Olympic medal are instead lifting clay bricks. A nation which should have adorned their face with this jewel is instead letting it rot in the darkness.
Someone who embodied courage, a person who realized the impossible, a woman who made her nation proud has been tortured and made to endure the curses of a million who never dawned on the arena, yet have constantly underviewed her. She was a girl who showed the world it took only perseverance and courage to succeed.
The 2 minutes and 36 seconds she run in Doha in 2006 were probably the longest she had ever run in her life. Not only did she come second in the race, she also brought a smile to the faces of millions of people in her homeland, she gave hope to thousands of children who were in the dark waiting for a ray of light.
The single ray of light from her teeth when she received her medal enlightened up a whole nation.
Who would have known but fate, that this smile would not go on to last forever. The silver medal around her neck, reflected the proud face of India, a country who was dying to see this for 22 years.
When P.T. Usha had missed her mark by 1/1000th of a second, she was just 3 years old. Back then, she was just as normal as any of those living in the villages. Born in a family that was ridden by poverty debt, she was encouraged to start running by her grandfather who was a sprinter himself. At school, other contestants would be a country mile from her at races.
Soon the word started spreading about this little girl who was winning the local races for fun. She would waste no time and would keep on running around the perennial ring of dust around her hut. Often when her mind would stretch a thought as to stop running, the thought of her family looking at open skies would immediately kill it and aggravate her passion.
Ever since she was 13, her grandfather had taken her into his arms and had given his life to make her the best. He gifted her her first pair of shoes, something for which she would be indebted to him for life. She was a docile girl; her grandfather was her benefactor. He was the one who injected into her mind the passion.
A passion which would in the course of events, see her breaking the national record for 3000 m steeplechase. Not an easy task by any means for a person who had spent all her life not knowing whether she would have food for the next meal.
The fire in her heart had no chance of getting doused. Life came up with its fair share of challenges against her. But she was too focused on her sport to lose her heart on such things. After shifting to Chennai for coaching, her game had improved massively and she had conquered the nationals with ease.
International glory was never too far away. It was only a matter of time before this humble girl from Tamil Nadu humbled her fellow competitors to win the silver medal in the 2005 Asian Athletics Championship. That was only the beginning of what was to be a dream run for her.
The next two years of her life were probably the toughest she ever faced. The Asian Games in Doha arrived. Expectations had built up around her already. She carried in her the hopes of a nation, a nation that was expecting to make a mark in athletics in the international stage after 26 years.