New Delhi, June 18: Vidya Sagar was a sports enthusiast and an avid tennis player in his youth. But financial crunch forced him to work as a gardener in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Years later, his daughter has got an opportunity to fulfill his dream courtesy President Pranab Mukherjee.
Nisha Sagar, a squash player, is one of the 15 youngsters who were short-listed by the coaches at the president's house for their talent and skills in sports like table tennis, lawn tennis and squash. They are now being groomed with the hope of them representing the country in the international arena one day.
"Till last year I had never heard about squash but now I am in love with it and want to play it at the international level," said Nisha in an interaction with the media here Tuesday.
However, the children, all under the age of 14 years, would have never got the chance to even enter the sports complex in the Rashtrapati Bhavan had it not been for President Mukherjee.
"Earlier the sports complex was open only to officials and their families residing in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But the president wanted inclusive development so the gates were opened for every child from any background," said Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the president.
According to Rajamony, there are 8,000 people including 1,800 employees that live in the presidents' estate.
"There are children of gardeners, horse groomers and peons who play along with the kids of bureaucrats... there is no discrimination," he added.
As far as the coaches are concerned, the children do have what it takes to make it big and all they need is direction and motivation.
"We are giving them special protein diet and are looking after all the expenses so they can just concentrate on the game," said Gauri Shankar, the tennis coach.
The tennis coaching had begun in December 2012, while that for table tennis and squash commenced in March.
President Mukherjee would meet the group Wednesday.