I spent the first five years of my life in Kuwait. My mom tells me I was a good child, only that I threw a tantrum every time I saw her leave for work. And of course everyday, when she came home she would have to win me over with chocolates, toys and pastries. But the next day, I would conveniently forget everything and start wailing again. I lost my father when I was six. May be my mom was trying to overcompensate for his absence.
I remember, once we’d gone to the US when I was five. On our way back to Kuwait, we were in transit in Belgrade for a day. On that very day, Iraq invaded Kuwait. We could not go back and were stranded in Belgrade for a week as my father’s credit card was not accepted (it was issued in Kuwait). So we had to wait for my uncle to transfer money from Hong Kong. We came to India empty-handed, having left everything behind in Kuwait. What a terrible end, to a wonderful holiday.
In school, I was not studious but I was a responsible student. In fact, in class XII, I was the ‘head boy’ of my school — The Frank Anthony Public School, Bangalore.
Besides snooker, I loved badminton, table tennis and cricket. When I took up snooker as a ten-year-old, I used to play in the parlour, but it was expensive. So I made my own snooker kit. I would use marbles for snooker balls, a chopstick for a cue and the carrom board for a snooker table. That way, I could play snooker for hours on end.
When I won the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, I had already travelled for 30 hours from the US, had not slept in two nights and my whole body ached with fatigue. But the moment my name was announced and I received the award from the President, I forgot everything else.
Play a sport because of your love for it, not because of its popularity. At the same time, do concentrate on your studies. You can combine studies with sports, so no excuses.