'Dhanraj was crying with happiness'                                                 Bombay Times |12/10/2002

Hockey star's mother is on cloud nine after he steered India into
Asian Games final

Andalamma Nagalingam Pillay is not a well-known name in sporting circles, but in Khadki, Pune, where she lives, she's a mini celebrity. This tongue-twister of a name belongs to hockey star Dhanraj Pillay's mother. And Amma is one person Dhanraj looks up to. She was the first an emotional Dhanraj spoke to from Busan
after India beat Pakistan 4-3 in the Asian Games semi-finals.

So what was the conversation like? "Ro raha tha khushi se," says an elated Andalamma from Pune. "He kept thanking me for my prayers. He said that because of the prayers of the entire country, we have reached this stage. Itna khush hoon mein aaj. Baad me phone karta bolke, phone disconnect kiya."

Andalamma is happy for her son and the nation. "I told him God is great. You
have to believe in him," she says. Hockey is a passion that runs in the family. She informs that everyone in her family is a hockey player, including her brother and brothers-in-law. Commenting on her children's passion for the stick game, she says: "Hockey haath mein pakadne ka bahut shauk tha sab ko. When they were kids, they would play with plain sticks."

Giving full credit to Dhanraj for his passion and dedication to the game, she says, "Ramesh (her eldest son) played for India for a short while, lekin Dhanraj itna door gaya ki hame bahut khushi hoti hai. Bharat mein aur world mein bahut naam kamaya."

Ramesh, who coaches the RCF team, too is cock-a-hoop: "The entire team played well. If they play like they did against Pakistan, then we'll beat Korea 2-0," he says confidently. "Lekin defence mein thoda gadbad hai."

Ramesh, too, had a word with his brother. "Woh to full josh mein hain," he laughs. Ramesh explains that whenever India plays Pakistan, there's lots of tension at home. "They get very tense during a match. Khunnas se khelte hai na. I told them not to worry; we'll definitely win," he says.

Today, the entire Pillay family will gather in Pune. It's not because of the final slated for today, but every weekend they visit home. And when the Indian team takes on Korea, Andalamma and her sons and the village of Khadki along with the hockey fans will be praying for a gold.


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Copyright 2006 Martin D'Souza. All rights reserved.