Freestyle football is the art of self-expression with a football while performing various tricks with any part of the body. [WIKIPEDIA]
Select images from a freestyle football competition held recently at Decathlon, Chennai.
I travelled to Kerala at the peak of summer earlier this year; my second time in as many years. Although this time not only was I travelling alone but had a 50-pound backpack, replete with all my photo gear, strapped on my rather bony shoulders for a photo assignment on cashew nuts. Self-doubt ran riot in my mind the entire duration of my 12-hour train ride. I could barely sleep.
The first day of shoot was probably the most overwhelming of this fun yet demanding three-day shoot, for I (along with three wonderful WSJ staffers from the New Delhi bureau) was thrust in a cashew processing factory the likes of which I hadn’t seen ever before. There was so much going on yet there was a method to this madness. And that’s precisely what I tried to explore the remainder of this (productive) assignment with my trusty D90.
Born in Chennai, Pradeep Ramesh, 27, is a professional freestyle footballer who also happens to have broken two Guinness World Records in the past eight months. As a matter of fact, his second official Guinness World Records certificate arrived just last week – he broke the previous record for most football touches with the shin in a minute by achieving it 238 times in the allotted time. When he’s not busy shattering world records at whim (he is gearing up for his third Guinness Record attempt as you are reading this), Pradeep can either be seen teaching budding freestylers this evolving art/sport or mesmerising audiences all over India with his brand of kick-ass freestyling.
When were you happiest? I can’t pinpoint one particular instance but if I’ve given my best for the day, I’m really happy that particular day.
What is your greatest fear? Whenever I see a grey strand in my beard, I get scared.
Which living person do you most admire, and why? I admire both my mum and wife and for the same reason – I don’t think there is anybody in this world who works harder than a mother especially Indian mothers. They have so much work and yet maintain a positive attitude every single day. The house will be in shambles without them.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Let’s say I wake up feeling low tomorrow, I’d just shut myself off and end up doing nothing the whole day.
What was your most embarrassing moment? When I’m visiting my relatives or meeting someone new, explaining what I do for a living is downright embarrassing. This occurs at least once every week.
What is your most treasured possession? My wife.
What would your super power be? The ability to read others’ minds.
What makes you unhappy? If I’ve not given my all in an endeavour, then I get unhappy.
What is your most unappealing habit? I’m addicted to coffee.
What is your least favourite word? Extra cheese.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to join the Army. I took the National Defence Academy (NDA) entrance exam in tenth but didn’t make the cut as I flunked the maths paper by 10 marks.
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you? This one guy on social media commented – ‘Is this record official [referring to my first Guinness World Records attempt video I put up on my Youtube channel]?’ I didn’t respond. After a while, he’s like, ‘Show me your certificate.’ He was getting on my nerves so I blocked him but that didn’t stop him from going on an epic rant on FB dissing me and my claim of being a world record holder.
What is on top of your bucket list? Winning the World Freestyle Football Championship.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Filter coffee.
What is the greatest love of your life? Football.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Ready, rolling.” (A phrase Pradeep often says when shooting videos for his vlog.)
What is the worst job you’ve done? A wedding gig in Agra where I had to freestyle in front of the bride and groom entourage as they were being led up to the dais.
If you could edit your past, what would you change? Nothing.
How do you relax? With a cup of coffee or just chilling at the beach.
What keeps you awake at night? Hopelessness.
How would you like to be remembered? As a motivational figure who proved that anything is possible.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you? Sometimes, hard work doesn’t pay dividends.
Tell us a secret. My wife snubbed me in high school when I proposed to her.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life? Money.
“Although the floods has helped us broaden our horizons with regards to preparation for such occurrences in the future, nevertheless, we end up giving thought to disaster mitigation only after we are hit by a disaster.”
K S Kandasamy, IAS
Deputy Commissioner (Works), Greater Chennai Corporation
It was a tense few days for K S Kandasamy the first week of Dec. 2105 as he had to be on his toes what with monitoring rescue and rehabilitation operations from the control room in Rippon Building; delegating tasks to corporation field officers; visiting the affected localities for assessment; and overseeing the relief management and distribution at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium. Simultaneously, help was pouring in from all quarters – donors from all the 31 districts of Tamil Nadu as well as public and private enterprises including the Indian Armed Forces donated around 1,700 tonnes worth of supplies to the Chennai Corporation. Earlier last year, all the insight and hands-on experience gathered during those arduous days was collated into an exhaustive handbook – the City Disaster Management Plan 2016. This 750-page guide contains all pertinent information concerning city layout and infrastructure, disaster-prone areas, emergency phone numbers, the “first line of defence” during a disaster situation, etc. All of this data was painstakingly compiled over a period of six months to ensure an effective management plan is in place to tackle future calamities. This handy guide will be made available for public perusal in the near future.
Please visit BBC to read the rest of the story.
*A joint effort with Karthik Subramanian
Had five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion Mary Kom been present at Chennai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium earlier this month, I bet a strong proponent of the sport such as herself would have shed tears of joy—and by the buckets.
The turnout at the Tamil Nadu State Sub Junior Boxing Championships was so immense that the small room that housed the ring resembled the Chennai Central to a T; incidentally, located just a stone’s throw away.
There, the usual noise that follows children wherever they gather was not to be. During the bouts, a certain silence ruled the atmosphere—only to be suspended by the heckles of a worked up coach and occasional bursts of cheers.
Some still accompanied by their moms, the budding combatants put on their game face, and looked their menacing best in their shimmering boxing gear. Albeit little, these feisty pugilists left no stone unturned in making their presence felt inside the twenty square foot modern-era Coliseum. But at the end of the day, there could be only one winner.
When the final bell is rung, heartbreak was written on the faces of many a child who had failed in their bid for glory. This, while a resolve to bounce back even stronger rumbles deep inside.
K. Chakravarthy is a showman par excellence who’s literally grown up under the big top.
Having lost his mother at a young age, Chakravarthy ran away from home at 10. He toiled as a busboy in Bengaluru for a short while, but lured by a colleague at work, who was in search of greener pastures, he became a runaway once again. The kids boarded a train to Hassan, Karnataka, but fate had other plans. Upon arrival at their destination, his colleague scammed him out of the few hundred rupees that he was carrying, and the young and naive Chakravarthy lay in despair at the train station with nowhere to go! Moved by his plight, he was offered a job at the railway canteen.
Just as he was getting settled into his new job, out of the blue comes a train carrying circus cargo – stupendous circus wagons, enormous elephants, ferocious tigers and all that razzmatazz. Amar Circus had brought their paraphernalia to set up camp in the town and after scoring a pass to one of their shows, Chakravarthy was bitten by the circus bug! He ran away (once again!) in hopes of getting a job at this circus and lo and behold he got hired, though at another establishment – Geeta Circus.
From then on, it’s been one hell of a ride for the last three decades at over a dozen Indian circuses: after getting his start as a helper in the kitchen, he progressed to doing group acts, then solo acts, then the acts got a little daring, and then riskier until finally he became a revered name in the business. Everything was hunky-dory until it all came to a screeching halt three years back when he and his missus suffered a major accident while performing one of their signature acts. Despite the grievous blow, he’s managed to pull himself back and founded Reena National Circus last year and has since been toiling day and night to make his baby click with the audience.
Mr. Chakravarthy can be reached at +91 951 497 9550
You have to give Sriram props for his indomitable spirit. For someone who could barely stand, walking was a distant dream. But the presence of a great support system has worked wonders for this 22-year-old…
For the last 20-plus years, Dr Paul Devasagayam has been championing the development of disabled sports in Tamil Nadu. His efforts have brought about a sea change in parental attitudes towards sports and transformed many a life in the process.
Find out more about the two of them here.