At the age of seven, when Hashish Kumar began working as a ball boy for tennis at a club in Karachi, he never dreamt of becoming a sports champion.
Given his limited resources and difficult circumstances, the aspiration seemed far from reality. But it was to happen.
Kumar’s father had died when he was four, leaving behind a widow and three sons. Since then, his mother had taken up the responsibility of providing sustenance for the family.
He remembers her going from house to house, working throughout the day as a house help, and even then, being able to provide bare minimum for them. Consequently, Kumar had to drop out of school after fifth grade. And so did one of his brothers after eighth grade.
Their days would pass doing nothing productive, while their mother struggled to make ends meet.
It was then, that one of their mother’s friends suggested to her to get them employed somewhere, not so that they help her with finances, but because it would ensure that they remained occupied with productive work and away from bad company.
A few days later, both Kumar and his brother began working as ball boys at a club. And soon, they too began to develop interest in tennis.
Whenever they got the chance, the boys would pick play a game or two or practice hitting the ball.
That was the start of Kumar’s journey to becoming a tennis champion.
Unknowingly, Kumar became invested in the sport and began training hard. Adding to his determination was the wish to provide his mother some relief.
It was this thought and confidence in his abilities that kept Kumar motivated to continue working towards achieving his goal even through the worst of times.
Relieving those memories, he said, “Tennis requires physical fitness, peace of mind and good health. I couldn’t have either of the three. But what I had was confidence in myself and determination to give my mother a better life.” He added, “I kept reminding myself that I have to do this.”
Around that time, Kamran Ahmed, who belonged to Peshawar, saw the potential in Kumar and began training him properly. Until then, Kumar had been learning by watching other players. Now, he had a coach and a mentor.
Ahmed, who has been a tennis coach at Sind Club for the past 30 years, first saw Kumar playing in a tournament five years ago. Since then, he has been training him and has helped him hone his skills and develop physical strength.
Meanwhile, a manufacturing company, General Tyre, sponsored Kumar, aiding him financially. As a result, Kamran was able to focus solely on his game.
Hitherto, Kumar has won four of the five national tennis tournaments he participated in and claimed victory in a recent tournament in Lahore. Following that, he earned himself a spot in the list of top 18 tennis players of Pakistan. Moreover, Kumar has won 14 tournaments in Qatar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.
Kumar is now an under eighteen champion, which is “no less than a dream” for him.
But this is not the end of his journey.
Ahmed is aiming to prepare him for the Davis Cup and Kumar is determined to win it.
However, what’s most gratifying for him is that he has been able to inspire children in his community.
He has resumed his education and that he looks back on his day of struggle, he says: “One should never underestimate their abilities. They need to believe in themselves and they can achieve anything. They just need to work harder than those who have more resources.”
Living up to his words, he has also started imparting education to children of his community and training them for tennis.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2021.
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