It would definitely not be a hyperbole to state that the Indian Track & Athletic Queen, PT Usha, belongs to the limited edition series !
A wonderful opportunity enabled me to interact with the Payyoli Express at the Little Millennium Kids Marathon at Surat. She was the Chief Guest at the event , aimed at motivating parents to nurture physically agile and alert children (along with cognitively alert) . The city was excited at the news of her arrival, the parents of young kids even more so !
Tall and athletic , she carries herself with the grace of a seasoned athlete. Her face bears attractive lines of a well experienced International athlete . She is a much travelled lady and she understands people and cultures rather well. She wears her celebrated feats with such a charming ease that it comes as a pleasant surprise to all who meet her. You would expect a winner of 103 International and 800+ National medals, the winner of Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri , to carry such weight heavily on her shoulders . But not PT Usha. She carries her accolades , her achievements, her talent , her perseverance with an angelic simplicity and charm.
She carries her own bags. She travels without a fancy entourage. She moves around unfettered without a posse of sychophants. She happily stops and poses for selfies. She shakes hands with people who way lay her at the airport , the shopping mall or the kerbside. And always with a smile . There are many who walk up to her with a questioning brow (while raking their Olympic memory) and ask, “What is your name ?”. She smiles and says, ” PT Usha”.
She doesn’t stand in a special queue at the airport check-in and nor does she expect any preferential treatment. You may keep throwing endless questions at her and in the middle of it, if you chirp in,”Are you getting late ma’m ?” . All she says is “No Problem. Please carry on”.
And she is like the girl next door when she quietly quips in nonchalantly , “Can we manage to go shopping ?”. Hallejullah , she’s a true blue female like us 🙂
She talks about her first International exposure as a 16 year old to the 1980 Olympics , when many of us saw her on our ‘black and white ‘ television. She travelled without her coach , saw a synthetic track for the first time and was in awe of the burly athletes competing with her. Yet , she made her mark.
She talks of travelling to Pakistan for a tournament on an unreserved seat in a train and how it was absolutely normal for athletes in those times. They did not concentrate on the frills , they concentrated on the performance !
“If I could do it then………..your children can do it ten times over , now “, was her address to the parents .
Parents thronged her to seek her blessings (and selfies). Some made their children touch her feet to draw upon her magnetic strength, someone brought their 3 year old straight from the hospital and still on a drip , while another brought a 2 month old baby – just to seek her ‘touch’.
Long hours of travel , delayed flights , hours of waiting make most people restless and short -fused. But not our lady. She has a short power nap, stretches a bit and smiles and turns around and asks, “What’s next ?”
One of the biggest lessons that this International athlete taught to many of us was ” Good things do come in simple and honest packages as well !”
To the children at the marathon , she was a perfect Real Hero . A real hero to emulate. To learn from & follow.
Cinderella and Red Riding Hood have been a part of their bed time stories.
PT Usha is their ‘hero at dawn”. If she could do it , so can they .
For the world, she is the “Golden Girl of Indian Athletics”
For us , she is the “Girl with a Golden heart and purposeful stride ”
PT Usha, you left behind a trail of fans at the Little Millennium Surat Kids Marathon …..