How a 15-year old Tejaswin Shankar’s teary letter melted the cancer-stricken father into allowing him to pursue athletics

Athletics

The high jumper Tejaswin’s father would die a month later but would set in motion that would eventually result now in a bronze medal at CWG.

Shared News: August 16, 2022 7:28:59 am
Tejaswin Shankar’s late father Harishankar initially wasn’t supportive of his son’s sports pursuits. But he has a change of heart just months before succumbing to blood cancer in 2014. (Special Arrangement)

When the high jumper Tejaswin Shankar was starting off athletics training at school, his late father Harishankar wasn’t happy. His lawyer father wanted Tejaswin to focus on studies since he didn’t see athletics, a sport plagued with age fraud and doping, as a viable career option.

Tejaswin, who bagged India’s first ever high jump medal at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, had to train during school lunch breaks to ensure his father didn’t get to know.

“I couldn’t go before or after school because my dad would get to know about it. So I used to practice during lunch breaks so that nobody found out. This went on for some time and then the Delhi state meet came and I was able to slowly build up. State medals and then interstate, 2014 School Nationals in Ranchi that you were talking about. By then he got to know and we had that tiff every time we had to talk about sports. ‘Kya yahi karte rehte ho, padhai me bhi dhyan do’ (What are you up to, focus on your studies) he would say,” says Tejaswin.

Tejaswin, back then, knew that his father would soon put his foot down. He saw the ultimatum coming long before it actually did. Just before the 2014 School nationals in Ranchi his father told him that he had to make a choice between sports and studies. Tejaswin’s father also told him about his battle with blood cancer for the first time.

“He told me he was at the last stages of his life and that was in Jan-February and in March he passed away. I did not understand all of this at that time. All he said was that he didn’t have much time. He just told me to choose between sports and studies,” says Tejaswin.

It was then that the 15-year old Tejaswin decided to pen a letter to his father. While profusely weeping he wrote that the Ranchi event would be his last competition and that he would focus on his studies after the event. He handed the letter to his father and left for Ranchi not knowing that his innocent letter would move his father.

“I did not understand all of this at that time. After handing him the letter I went to the Ranchi nationals where I won my first bronze medal and again it’s bronze at the Commonwealth Games,” he says.

The letter and medal were a turning point in his career. “That was my first national, and then he understood that sports is my passion and this is my calling. Then mummy told me that when I had left for the competition they had a talk about it and he was moved by that letter. After that, he just wanted me to follow my dreams but then he did not have a lot of time and we lost him a month later,” says Tejaswin.

But Tejaswin remembers that bronze fondly as it was the stepping stone for his exploits on the domestic circuit. He feels a bronze at CWG could just be the beginning of a new start on the international

“From there the journey began and now I have a bronze again. Every time I get a bronze I feel it is the beginning of something new. Then it was at the national level and since then I have done really well and maybe this bronze is the beginning of something new.”