“Sundays with Purav” is a 11 part series in collaboration with our very own, Purav Raja. Through his first hand experience of competing on the ATP Tour, Purav aims to educate Indian tennis parents, fans, and community, in general, about what our country needs to do to be called a sporting nation

I went to boarding school when I was 11. I did not know how to tie my shoelaces, but my parents had the vision to send me to, arguably, one of the best educational institutions in the world.

This was a school for children between ages 8-18 and had over 200 acres of unscathed land in the south-west of England. I was tucked away in some corner of the globe, far from my dream of Gujarati dhokla and hot jalebis, put into a big bad world of eggs and bacon. At age 11, there was nothing that could make me believe that moving to England was a good move . It was cold, without any social life for me or my family. It was expensive and I was going to be away from all my loved ones for months. Nightmare! Why go through this when we were all perfectly satisfied in my little cocoon in south Mumbai?

I’d just moved from a Bombay school which had one lawn between four schools, to the epitome of sports infrastructure in England. Competition was rife as it included the best toddlers from all over the globe. It felt like they had all congregated in this school to achieve a real dream. There were indoor courts – hard, grass, and astro tennis courts, in addition to rugby, football, cricket pitches plus Olympic swimming/athletics arenas. And all of them built to a world class level. We had a normal sports halls bigger than my entire back garden(shared between 4 schools) in Mumbai and a medical centre/gym bigger than my previous school. All this for only a thousand odd kids – what a waste right!

I always believe you are a product of your environment and it was a true honor for anyone to be known as one of the best sportsman at my high school. My peers, teachers and everyone around me made me feel special, which inspired me to get better & win those coveted laurels or trophies for my school. Recently, I was inducted into the wall of honour too. These were world class achievers in their field appreciating any world class talent in children’s academics, sport, music or art. Purav Raja’s hands and drop shot tennis trademark was appreciated by everyone in my fraternity at such a young age and it made me truly believe I was special.

Since that early an age, everyone at my school had a sense of achievement and ample opportunity whilst all my friends in Mumbai, who I believe were just as talented as myself, lost out on any sporting dream to the 10th standard rat race. If that didn’t kill them, the 12th standard dog race certainly did. And still, if a few got out of there – don’t worry as they still had so much petty politics and pressure of our doctor/lawyer society mindset around them, that it certainly would’ve drowned them in our Hindustan. So after all these years, when I look back, the cocoon really was in England and I was even more protected there from the things that really matter to make you into a professional sportsman. I was sheltered from all my peers to compete for good grades, protected from any politics and always rewarded with pride. Thank you.

Today, Millfield School, tucked away in a corner of Great Britain, has just recently celebrated its 50th Olympic medal in its proud history – and India has yet to achieve double digits. Maybe all this infrastructure wasn’t a waste after all!

Impossible is nothing, thank you! 🙂

Purav Raja

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