I find aircrafts fascinating. I guess I am lucky to have seen so many of them from very close quarters when I was a kid. You see, my father was in the ministry of civil aviation and for the most part of my childhood I lived close to airports.
I was born in Delhi but grew up in Ahmedabad. I loved sitting on the terrace of my house and watching the gliders come down at Safdarjung Airport. The airport in Ahmedabad was much smaller, with just one flight each day to Delhi and one to Mumbai.
Airports and aeroplanes influenced me so much that when I was in Class X, all I wanted to become was a pilot. My father often took me to look at aeroplanes. I would go into the cockpit and marvel at the motors, levers and steering wheels. Then, for some reason, I wanted to join the merchant navy. I could hardly have imagined then that I would one day be earning my living as a professional billiards player.
I started playing the game only when I was 13. At the Ahmedabad Gymkhana where I swam, played badminton, table tennis and other games, the billiards room was out of bounds for children. And that is precisely why it attracted us. We would peep through the doors and windows. The green baize and the colourful balls looked inviting, but our chance came only in 1975. The Billiards and Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) had been instructed by the ministry of sports to hold a junior level national championship and the BSFI sent out circulars to all clubs in India, asking them to encourage junior players to take up the sport. The age limit at Gymkhana was relaxed and I became the first junior player to pick up a cue in the club.
I recall that five of us were playing badminton when we read the circular. We just ran to the billiards room, picked up the cue from the rack and started playing. I managed to hit a ball on the first day. I learnt fast. Within a year I had won the inaugural junior national billiards title.
I was a bit of an introvert, with only a few close friends. We cycled to school and made fun of people on the way. In school we were upto all sorts of pranks. Once we crept up behind our teacher and splashed ink on his shirt while the other boys engaged him in a conversation.