My father worked for Bhel, so we grew up in Bhopal, and I did my schooling at the township there. Oh, those were the days! Friends, sports, fun… the township had big playgrounds. We used to play cricket, football and hockey, my favourite. I picked up my first hockey stick when I was about eight years old. Soon, I was part of my school team.
Hockey was my passion, but kho-kho was an accident of sorts. I was in the eighth grade when our physical education teacher was scouting for the school team, to play for the state level. Out of the blue, he nominated me. I had never played the game till then, and was selected and became determined to give it my best. I represented Bhopal division at the state level in 1985.
I still smile at the memory of travelling for the game. It was the first time I went to another city, Jabalpur, on my own, and on a train! Like icing on the cake, I received Rs.10 per day to do as I pleased. My first earning in a way!
Sports shaped me as a person with limitless grit and confidence. Till date, I have never had to look outward for motivation. If you keep trying, relentlessly, you will succeed. That I learnt from the games, from when I missed the shots in my early days to those exhilarating times my shot found the back of the net.
I was in the ninth standard when my elder sister, Anita, rented a shop to sell ready-made garments. I used to visit the shop, and spend time observing customers and interacting with them. I started getting a sense of what they look for, how to drive sales and so on. Eventually, I started travelling to Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad with my brother, Anil,to purchase garments. I never knew that this learning, of over 10 years, would come handy one day.
By 1989, I was in Jabalpur Engineering College, pursuing agricultural engineering. In college, I embarked on a crazy adventure — due to the ongoing Gulf War in 1991 petrol bun