Guru mantra: Play, fight, live like there’s no tomorrow - Hindustan Times
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Guru mantra: Play, fight, live like there’s no tomorrow

ByKaran Sethi and Naina Arora, New Delhi
Jul 13, 2022 11:40 AM IST

On Guru Purnima today, some popular personalities share how their teachers identified their inherent talents and dedicated themselves to honing the skills of their pupils.

The one who is not just your mentor, but also your strength at the lowest ebb of life – guru. On the occasion of Guru Purnima today, some popular personalities share how their teachers identified their inherent talents and dedicated themselves to honing the skills of their pupils. While these students often put the spotlight on their gurus, today is a tad special when they say ‘thank you’.

On Guru Purnima today, popular personalities such as ace sprinter Hima Das, paralympian Praveen Kumar, photographer Avani Rai, and Kathak danseuse Shivani Varma talk about their gurus and their learnings.
On Guru Purnima today, popular personalities such as ace sprinter Hima Das, paralympian Praveen Kumar, photographer Avani Rai, and Kathak danseuse Shivani Varma talk about their gurus and their learnings.

Hima Das; (inset) with her coach Galina Bukharina
Hima Das; (inset) with her coach Galina Bukharina

‘Ya toh hum seekhte hain, ya to hum jeette hain!’

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Sprinter Hima Das, who is all set to run in the 4x100m event at the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, says her coach’s words of wisdom stay with her at all times. “Abhi jo mere coach hain, Galina (Bukharina) ma’am, aur Athletics Federation of India ke coaches, in sabse ek hi baat seekhti hoon ki kabhi zindagi mein haar nahi hoti; ya toh hum seekhte hain, ya toh hum jeette hain!” says Das.

If a guru means a person who teaches you something, then she has met one at every stage of her life, feels Das. “Life ke har mod par jo mere saath rahe hain aur mujhe sahi raasta dikhaya, woh sabhi mere guru hain. Sabse pehle mere ma aur papa, mere bade bhai, school teachers, mere sports ke seniors, aur shayad kuch juniors bhi, jinse main seekhi hoon,” adds Das.

Danseuse Shivani Varma shares a warm bond with her guru Shovana Narayan.
Danseuse Shivani Varma shares a warm bond with her guru Shovana Narayan.

‘Unconditional love, unfettered freedom’

Delhi-based Kathak danseuse Shivani Varma can’t thank her gurus enough for everything she has learned from them. “My guru in life is Maharaj ji, (late) Pt Birju Maharaj and guru Shovana Narayan (Kathak exponents). They knew me better than I knew myself [when I was starting out], and gave me unconditional love, unfettered freedom and never doubted me even in the face of the most pressing influences,” shares Varma, adding, “I’ve been blessed with an intimate and honest relationship with my gurus, which is my biggest accomplishment, and I hope, in time, I become worthy of being their student.”

Talk about a guru mantra she holds close to her heart, and Varma shares, “I live by these words of Maharaj ji, ‘Samudra manthan se vish bhi nikla tha aur amrit bhi. Maujood toh humesha dono rahenge sansaar mein, yeh tum par hai ki tum vish banna chahogi ya amrit.’ (The ocean’s churning gave us both poison and nectar, which still exist in this world. It’s up to you to choose which one you want to be).”

Praveen Kumar with his coach, Satpal Singh.
Praveen Kumar with his coach, Satpal Singh.

‘Coach sir ne bola, apne liye nahi mere liye khel’

Paralympian Praveen Kumar brought laurels for the country by winning the silver medal in the men’s high jump event at Tokyo Paralympics 2020. Now training for the upcoming Asian Games, Kumar is grateful to his guru, coach Satpal Singh, for the love and respect he has showered on him. “In 2018, I met Satpal sir for the first time. Tab unhone mujhe bola ki teri skill pe kaam main kar lunga, lekin mujhe tujhse bas yeh chahiye ki tu ek achha insaan bana rahe,” says Kumar.

Crediting his coach for helping him sail through one of the toughest phases of his life — which was prior to the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships — he recounts, “I was about to give up sports when my category changed from T42 to T44. Sir ne tab samjhaya ki tum aise haar nahi maan sakte, and said, ‘Apne liye mat khel par apne coach ke liye khel!’”

Avani Rai with her father and mentor, Raghu Rai. (Photo: Sanchit Khanna)
Avani Rai with her father and mentor, Raghu Rai. (Photo: Sanchit Khanna)

‘Papa said if I miss a moment in time, it’s lost forever’

“A guru is someone who gives you a place to start from and then you find your own journey. Their motive is to birth something that is very internal to you. That is what my parents have done for me as my teachers,” shares photographer and filmmaker Avani Rai. She has, in the past, directed the documentary Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait, which is based on the photographic journey of her father and eminent photographer, Raghu Rai.

“The one mantra that my father has passed on to me is that if I miss a moment in time, it’s lost forever. So, be present in every moment, and that moment becomes your greatest teacher,” says Avani. On how a student can reciprocate and give back to their guru, she adds, “When you are able to fulfil your greatest learnings, you feel that you did justice to the relationship you share with your guru.”

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