The Olympics. The ultimate showdown for every sportsperson (that is if your game is in the Olympics) on this planet. Pierre de Coubertin rightly said “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part” because we know only a few people who were lucky enough to qualify and participate in this exclusive event. So when I had to spend one whole day with a person who has just come back after not just participating but winning a Silver Medal, you know you are going to meet someone very extraordinary, very special, a star. Let me break the suspense. It’s VIJAY KUMAR people. He’s the star I am talking about. This unheralded armyman came out of nowhere to give us the silver lining (medal). I am sure one of us must have made a wish on the shooting star for us to get a medal on that particular day, and the wish was answered with Vijay clinching the medal. In a largely victorious summer for India, Vijay Kumar cut a quite enigmatic figure. For me, he was just this perfect guy as he was living the life I had dreamed of when I was 13 i.e. to win a medal in the Olympics. While watching the medal distribution ceremony, I had goose bumps all over my body and a little teardrop escaped through the corner of my eye.
I reached the elite hotel where Vijay was staying at 8 am. On reaching the hotel desk, I called him to check whether he was up by that time since I reached the place fifteen minutes before the fixed time to escape traffic as there were overcast skies that morning. I was surprised when he told me that he would take ten more minutes to finish his gym session and join me. Ok people, so now if you have this idea of army men being punctual and disciplined from the movies, well join me. And the good thing is they are, because exactly after ten minutes he was standing right in front of me. This is real quick people because the hotel is really huge.
Getting back to Vijay, I congratulated him and told him how cool he looked while shooting. He is pretty un-starry. He laughed and then thanked me. He was kind enough to ask me to join him for breakfast. I noticed Vijay is a lot into healthy food as on his plate. I could see plenty of fruits and oatmeal which made me keep back the five cupcakes I had just served myself and I followed his diet, fruits. We were complete strangers at that time. I told him how I too was a part of the Asian Games 2010 and he was happy to know that. He told me that he won Bronze in both the Asian Games he participated in (Doha and Guangzhou). I was like, wow! Vijay while shooting looks very serious and poker-faced and so when I saw him on television, I told my friends his name should have been Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (he is a fictional character from the film Agneepath released in 1990, portrayed by Amitabh Bachchan). I told him about this and he laughed again and then told me that some of his friends have said the same
Well I changed my view about him being a serious personality because he was so much fun. He laughed on every other thing. To escape his fans after breakfast, we proceeded to his room and on entering I saw a big chocolate cake with “Congratulations” written on it and by its side was the most coveted piece of metal. Without wasting a second I pulled out my hands to grab it. It felt surreal to hold it in my hands. Vijay was kind enough to cut the cake and offer me a slice. Vijay started narrating me his tale of how he hails from a small town of Hamirpur where he grew up in the the mountains. He has a younger brother who he claims is spoilt as he is the youngest and gets everything he wants and an elder sister who is married. Vijay tells me that he used to get beaten up a lot by his mother as he was the more notorious one. His father was a Subedar in the army himself. ”Few years back I was an unknown person in my state and now every kid aspires to become like me,” he says.
Vijay goes on to add, “I am a very rebellious person and I do everything on my own terms.” This is the reason why he took up shooting, as he says in sports you are an independent person and you don’t have to take orders (apart from the coaches, he adds laughing). Vijay told me that even though he when he was a junior in his regiment, which is at Mhow, he used to boss around fearlessly. Vijay tells me that he follows a “take it easy”policy in life. According to him, sportslife is the best one can have as one gets to travel around the world, learn and experience so many things which helps one to develop as a person. He told me how much he missed home as he has been travelling all over the world for past few years. He was on tour for the past 2 years without a break. On asking him whether he felt bad about not being among the favourite contenders of the media, he simply said “I shoot because I love to do it. I don’t really care whether I am getting attention or not because at the end of the day I know I gave everything to what I love and I can sleep peacefully. It’s not that I don’t like attention but it’s just that if I get it, good and if I don’t I am fine with it”.
I asked him whether he was enjoying the attention now, he blushed like a teenage boy. “It’s crazy now. I mean when I won the silver in London I wasn’t hoping for such a welcome. It feels good when your achievements are recognized”, he said. The strange things is that he has never watched himself on tv shooting or giving interviews. So we decided now that we have time to our disposal we might as well do that. On his laptop we decided to watch his Olympics winning round. His eyes were starry once again and I could see his apparent excitement. He explained to me exactly how he felt while shooting for silver. He informed me with great pride that his event, the 25m rapid fire pistol shooting, is considered as the toughest among all the events. He comes across as a very positive mind which impressed me. I asked him whether he could teach me how to be as positive minded as himself and he told me one simple thing, “Just tell yourself what you really want and your body will automatically work towards it.” He believes in the theory of survival of the fittest and advised me to face the challenges in life boldly and with an open mind. This is what extraordinary people do. They inspire and encourage others.
One interesting thing about Vijay is that he is a fitness freak and can do pushups with just one hand . We decided to take a little parenthesis. The hunger drove us out.Though he is a so called “Pandit”(In Hindu religion most of the people who belong to this caste are vegetarians), Vijay digs non-veg food. We both savored our taste buds with some great Mughlai food from a near by famous joint. Vijay tried hard to be incognito but was recognized by people in the restaurants who flocked him for pictures and autographs. He din’t let anyone down. The girls complimented him on his cute looks and he blushed. I took this as an opportunity to ask him whether he has a girlfriend. He said,”I have been so busy with shooting and travelling that I never got time to find a girlfriend for myself.”
It was time for us to go back as Vijay had to attend a felicitation ceremony. To our surprise Amitabh Bacchan was the Chief Guest. The ball room of the hotel was filled with all the big corporate people who all cheered their heart out for Vijay Kumar. He was the bigger celebrity there. The man of the hour. Once the functioned finished I thanked him for giving me his precious time and we bid farewell to each other.
According to the dictionary a star is – “An artistic performer or athlete whose leading role or superior performance is acknowledged or one who is highly celebrated in a field or profession.” Vijay Kumar seems to fully comply with the definition of the star. However, in India if you ask any random person who is a star? In all probability the reply would be the name of either a cricketer or a Bollywood actor. Despite his relative anonymity, he will continue to be one of the best sportsmen India has ever produced and a star in the real sense.Published 15 Sep 2012, 17:21 IST