July 06, 2013

Ode to a PT master

In the span of a week, I had to travel to the north-western part of the city for two diverse developments - a funeral and a wedding.

We had to go beyond Perambur on both occasions.
Thiru Vi Ka Nagar is new to me though the badlands of Pulianthope which we had to cross that afternoon are not.

We were in this nagar to pay our respect to a man who left a great impression on the lives of a whole generation of students at a school in Egmore.

Paneerselvam was a P T Master who was sportsman, coach, mentor, guide, comic and friend - all rolled in one.
Hailing from the deep south and with a degree at the YMCA College in this city, he joined our school when we were in our teens.

To him sports was serious business and since we also had Miss Neaves, another legendary sports administrator in our community, PT Master had his hands full. He had to not only coach a bunch of serious young athletes but mould the entire school.

So he set about creating drill teams like never before. In doing this he not only excited legions of kids who wanted to be in the drill teams though they had to endure his yells and sweat it out on the playground but he also created avenues for the school team to perform at city-level sports meets.

PT Master’s brand of drills became so known that our school team was invited to perform at bigger sports meets.

And if the drill team’s record was not enough, Pannerselvam ensured he stood out in a crowd with his trademark look - white cap, straight hair, colourful T-shirt, spotless white trousers and white sports shoes.

The man who earned much respect and love, inspired loads of jokes and survived a few serious health problems was taken out on his final journey, dressed in his trademark clothes, cap and shoes.

He wanted to go that way.

If Pannerselvam remains a loving memory in many hearts, Rajaratnam Stadium in Egmore is a fading memory for legions of athletes. This sports space that belongs to the Madras City Police was second home to generations of sportspeople and for the youth who lived in Egmore.

The compact, centrally located stadium was convenient for city schools to hold their Sports Meets and for talented athletes to train and toil for a place on the podium.

With the closure of this stadium some years ago, an important social space was wiped out. Thankfully, a new stadium is to be opened now but it does not have the simple, open feel that the old one offered all athletes.
Some places are part of people’s lives. If we cannot preserve them completely, we can save parts of them for the future.

Listen to the audio post here.

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