It's a misconception that sports and academics cannot be pursued simultaneously, says Noida District Magistrate and Paralympic silver medal-winning shuttler Suhas Yathiraj, basking in the glory of his unparalleled achievements which he credited to the inspiring role played by his late father.
The 38-year-old Suhas, who has an ankle deformity since birth, claimed the silver at the recent Tokyo Games, his maiden Paralympics since taking up the sport in 2016.
Speaking to PTI in an interview, the bureaucrat, who gave up a corporate job after clearing UPSC, said he is accustomed to striking a perfect balance between his job and his passion.
"Since my childhood days, I used to play sports for two hours, sports is part of my life along with studies. There is a misconception in the society that sports and studies can't go along together," he said.
"I would like to tell the parents and the society that forget that logic, your child can excel in both," Suhas, who was born in Karnataka's Hassan, added.
"In 2016 I played my first professional tournament, the Asian Championship in Beijing, where I got the gold medal and I think that was more or less the turning point in terms of professional badminton."
Suhas, who has been DM of Azamgarh, Prayagraj and Hathras in his various stints, credited his late father Yathiraj L K for the success he has achieved and said it is after watching him play that he was inspired into the shuttle sport. Yathraj Senior was also a government officer.
"My deformity is congenital. I have had operations when I was a child to fix try and fix it. The challenge was always there in the childhood because we were not mature enough to understand good or bad etc.
"So you are very sensitive to what people speak, you are not even confident as to what you can achieve in life. But that is where my father's role comes into play, he gave me immense confidence in what I could do. So since childhood, I have been competing with able-bodied athletes," he said.
Suhas said he has always liked badminton and wanted to play the sport as a child. "There is no specific inspiration behind getting into badminton, it was a sport that I always loved since childhood. But in south India, there is a concept of ball badminton, my father used to play ball badminton and I used to be fascinated with that.
"That is where I got fascinated with racquet sports," said the soft-spoken multi-tasker. Suhas, an engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Suratkal, scripted history by becoming the first IAS officer to win a a Paralympic medal.
Since his appointment as the DM of Gautam Buddh Nagar on March 30, 2020, he was also been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic management.
"...After 12th, I was fortunate to get into both MBBS and engineering, I got into the best engineering college of Karnataka that is NIT Suratkal. After that I got jobs in three MNCs but I felt that there is something lacking in my life.
"I always wanted to be a civil servant and after the tragic death of my father in 2005, I decided that I would pursue it. In 2006 I wrote the exams and at that time I was also working in a private MNC," he said.
Wasn't it a huge task to chase those IAS ambitions with an active job? "If you see in life, all things which are worthy of achieving or have some intrinsic value, they are all difficult. It's all about time management and those who have excelled at multitasking have one thing in common, they love love the task they they select."
Talking about his training along side bureaucratic responsibilities, Suhas said: "During the peak of COVID I didn't train because there was absolutely no time. But the peak was for a certain period and my training was generally post 10pm at night.
"One needs to train for two hours generally and one hour in the morning for physical fitness. So that's more than sufficient. I was not in the national camp. I trained along with an Indonesian coach.
"He trained me specifically here in Greater Noida. He is my personal coach. He is based in India but a former Indonesian badminton player. His name is Gighi Duthree Belatame."
He also praised the government's Target Olympic Podium Scheme, which according to him, played a big role in the best-ever medals tally of 19 in the Paralympics.
"One of the best schemes of the government is TOPS and I am also a part of it. I think TOPS scehme is one of the reasons for the increased medals tally in the country," he said.
Talking about life after finding fame, Suhas said he would rather enjoy the moment than plan ahead. "I want to live in the present moment. I don't want to think about anything else. I sometimes feel that if God has given me the gold, there wouldn't have been much left to achieve. So, I feel everything happens for a reason.
"I just want to cherish this moment and after sometime, give thought to anything else," Suhas added.