Free stay and langar meals

Updated: Nov 10, 2019, 09:17 IST | Chaitanya Padukone |

Badminton legend Prakash Padukone recalls living in a Gurudwara at Indonesia during a trip there for intensive six-week training 40-plus years ago.

Prakash Padukone in full flight during the 1980s. Pic/mid-day archives
Prakash Padukone in full flight during the 1980s. Pic/mid-day archives

What happens to people when they are surrounded by members of their community and a few close friends? In this case... a sporting legend, the Chitrapur Saraswat community and pals in the form of veteran badminton players like Kiran Kaushik, Leroy D'Sa, Shirish Nadkarni, Iqbal Maindargi and Mangirish Palekar. They shrug off their shy, self-effacing, reticent selves and open up on bits of their professional journey that have not been heard before.

That's what Prakash Padukone did recently during a conversation with sports enthusiasts Sunil Ullal and Praveen Kadle at a function organised by the Kanara Saraswat Association at Tardeo, Mumbai, while the badminton virtuoso was in the city for a few days.

Padukone's success mantra

Going down memory lane, the 1980 All England champion recalled, "Four decades ago, we [young badminton players] were sent for an intensive six-week training camp in Indonesia. We did not have the luxury of checking into a hotel or a well-furnished rented apartment. Fortunately, a group of helpful NRIs came to our rescue. We were allowed to occupy a room in a local gurudwara. We slept on the floor and had our free meals served daily during the langar. If one has to strive for excellence, one should have an unconditional love for the sport and be prepared to make sacrifices and adjustments in life," said Padukone with his charming smile.

The incident in Indonesia will also remind badminton buffs who have read The Prakash Padukone Story by Dev S Sukumar. In the book, the author recalls an incident in which Padukone and his fellow state badminton players had to sleep in freezing conditions at Lucknow station where they were stranded at due to a railway strike right in the middle of their journey back to Karnataka from the 1973 Gorakhpur nationals. This was after his hat-trick of national singles titles and Padukone continued dominating the national championships till 1979. He also partnered D'Sa to win the doubles crown in 1973.

PrakashPrakash Padukone shows how it's done at a recent function in Tardeo

Talking about spending nights away from home, Prakash, according to the book, loved retiring for the day early to be fresh for the next day's challenges. "While travelling, the one thing everybody noticed about Prakash was that he would invariably climb to the upper berth and doze off as soon as the train started. He had to preserve his energies for the tournament. The others amused themselves by playing cards or reading. Everybody carried their own bedding. Each trip would involve a great deal of luggage," wrote Sukumar.

'I'm fondly called Buddha'

In one of his witty moods at Tardeo, the other day, Padukone, famous for his calm demeanour while executing his tactful strokeplay on the badminton court, made an interesting revelation: "Since I am generally calm even at home, I am also fondly called Buddha." Even as he displayed his famous stance with the racquet on the court, Padukone, 64, the father of Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone, added: "One need not display explicit emotions by shouting at the umpire or the linesman or throw your racquet to flaunt your killer instinct. My role models have been badminton legend Rudy Hartono and tennis icons Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer. In India, it was Sunil Gavaskar and then Sachin Tendulkar. There is so much that one has imbibed from them with regards to exemplary, dignified conduct at all times."

The Bangalore based icon, who has been helming his badminton academy for the 25 years, is delighted with the popularity quotient his sport enjoys. "The shuttlecock game now ranks second after cricket in terms of popularity, especially after Saina Nehwal won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in 2012." Now that a biopic is being made by director Amole Gupte on Saina Nehwal, would Prakash be also game for his own bio-feature movie? " Not yet," he told this writer.

PrakashCricket great Sunil Gavaskar with Prakash Padukone at the Pune Indian Masters event in 1979

Asked to share his philosophy on handling life's pressures, the self-trained Padukone remarked: "Health is my top priority, followed by peace of mind; then comes money. Even if I am offered a million dollars to do something which I am not comfortable with, I will insist on not doing it."

Clearly, India's first All England champion is at peace with himself. Indeed, he must stay a role model to younger members of his tribe. To the budding players in the audience, Padukone said: "Do not expect instant results. Have abundant patience, try to optimise your potential but always give your 100 per cent."

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