New Beginnings!!

Last August,  two weeks before the Pune All India I went to my coach Hemant Hardikar and told him I was both mentally and physically ready to quit. He heard everything I had to say, patted my back and told me it was the right decision. He said it had been a great journey and I had achieved some really good things and I should leave with no regrets. When Hemant sir said he was proud of me my heart felt pretty heavy. I know how difficult it is for him to express his emotions but I couldn’t hope for a better time for him to let go of them. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Out of all the coaches I have had he is the one I respect the most.

The first month after retirement was the toughest. I was filled with mixed emotions. There was anxiety about the future, there was sadness about not having the thrill of competition anymore , there was relief as I did not have to risk my broken knee again day in day out and there was curiosity about what am I going to do next. I was 26 and I had already retired as a professional athlete . It is not exactly an easy position to be in.  In times like these when I need to get my mind straight I did what I always do – travel. This time my destination was Bhutan.

As always, travelling by myself helped. I decided I would do two things now, work as a Manager in Bharat Petroleum ( The company has been supporting me as an athlete since I was 16) and coach a little. It felt good I had something new to look forward to. It was going to be tough, different and challenging. I came back from Bhutan and joined the Pune I & C(Industrial and Commercial) department at the end of September. I had two 14 year old kids to coach. The first few days in an office environment were surprisingly pleasant. The I & C Department-  my colleagues, my seniors and my bosses were more than welcoming. Day after day they patiently taught me my job. I learnt in an environment in which I could ask the most basic questions and not feel silly. It was not just a lesson on how the business needs to be handled but also a lesson on how a rookie needs to be handled, giving then confidence about doing their job well and not scaring them away. I learnt on the job steadily building a decent reputation. My boss gave me a small account to handle and at the end of it told me to write a report on it. I wrote a report for the first time and got some good reviews for it.  It felt good. The anxiety levels were slowly receding. I felt accepted. Meanwhile I entered  Mercurix – a national story-telling competition organized by BPCL. I made it to the finals, got a chance to do a workshop with Vikram Gokhale and eventually won it. When I made my acceptance speech in front of the respective Chairman & Managing Director , Executive Directors and the BPCL family in general, I knew I had handled my transition period pretty well. I felt I had finally found a direction to follow. I was also feeling good about my coaching stint. I spent two hours every day with the two kids, them and I learning simultaneously. After two months of training them one of them won a small district level tournament, the School Olympics held in Pune. The smile on his face made me realise how satisfying it is to help others believe in their dreams.  Happiness was slowly finding it’s way back into my life. I felt ready. With my future plans in place I felt a little more empowered and at peace.

The problem with making plans is that they work until they don’t. We live arrogantly thinking we can control the future, when life is mostly ready to change the next minute. Out of nowhere came a guy into my life. Everything was going to change , forever. It happened when I least expected it to. Our first conversation on the phone lasted an hour. It was absolutely effortless, we spoke like old friends and it did not really feel like an arranged marriage set up. We share the same middle-class background, which comes with the “Small houses- big dreams!” tagline.  We are both very unconventional in our means and yet so conventional in our ideas about love, marriages, family and tradition.  Chinmay Athaley is a business analyst by profession but a musician at heart.  He literally sang his way into my heart.  It didn’t take us too long to commit and be absolutely sure about taking the next official steps.

Chinmay works in Denver, Colorado so making things official meant my life had to change completely. I had to leave my cocoon. A well paying job, my family, my friends, coaching and everything else. It was not really a very tough decision for me. I love challenging myself, testing the uncharted waters curious to see how it all turns out. Paul Theoraux said in an interview, “ The best travel books are not written when the train is on time, when you have the best of travel passengers, when you get treated like royalty or when you live in five star hotels. The best travel books are written when your train is derailed, when your hotel reservations are cancelled and you have to stay at a cheaper motel, when you meet people who you hardly relate to and listen to their stories. Then and only then do you get a travel book worth writing. The crux of what he is trying to say here, I figure is – “Life really happens to you when your plans don’t work, when you step out of your comfort zone, when you are pushed to your limits and you still come out of it stronger, a better person and thus have amazing stories to tell” I look at moving to United States as an opportunity to may be do exactly that. I am curious to see if it all turns out into something worthwhile. Regardless I am very excited .

I am in a very happy place right now and this time I have played no part in it. It’s all him!!  I don’t need to say anything. The picture says everything, and a little more. Hope this is a beginning to some great things and both of us can build something that we will truly cherish – together!!