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Aug 01, 2017 at 14:32

An internationally acclaimed shooter, ex-armyman, and the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has worn as many hats as we can only begin to imagine. The first Indian athlete to win an individual silver medal at Olympics in 2004 (after 1900), he is the recipient of the Padma Shri, the Arjuna Award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, and the AVSM for his exceptional service in the military. School Live student reporters had the unique opportunity of meeting the dynamic man.

Being an army kid, was it decided that you would join the army or were you given the freedom to venture into other fields as well?

Frankly, nowadays, I feel the exposure is phenomenal. The times have changed. Because of the media now, the opportunities are so many. These opportunities did not exist at that point of time. So, our outlook was very limited. My family never pushed me to get into the armed forces but there was always a sense of pride in the uniform. I could not think beyond the army because of the environment I had grown up in. In terms of career, we didn’t know much. It was more for the happiness of my parents as they wanted to see me settled.

What about cricket? You have always shown keen interest in the sport.

I love cricket. Studies were always my Waterloo, especially maths. So, I always looked forward to playing and I was reasonably good in games. Cricket was always popular. There was a very competitive environment and it was evident in inter school and inter class matches. At that point of time, I wanted to do the best. I learnt a lot from cricket. In the sense that I used to read this book called the Art of Fast Bowling. I realised that it was not easy to get coaches so I picked up a book by someone who was really knowledgeable and I tried to learn from that. So, he became my inspiration and icon and I wanted to be exactly like Dennis Lillee (author of the book). My bowling was like him. He used to say that he went for a run during his lunch break. So, I started carrying my shoes in my bag and I started going for a run during lunch as well. They was pretty cool at that time. So, it was half to impress and half to train. So, my shoes occupied more space in my bag than my books. That was good fun. And then I started playing for clubs. I interacted with other clubs. My school in Jabalpur was surrounded by colleges. And I was in 11th at that time. The funny part was that because I was playing cricket in school and playing at the level of college guys, the college guys would come and ask to see me. And I would walk out of the school, full of confidence. Everyone was scared of the college guys and there I was. In the Army, cricket is not too popular. So I got into other games.

You said you didn’t give your 12th board examinations. How was that feeling?

It was a very cool feeling. It was honestly brilliant. I had already passed my NDA examination and boards were after that. I was to join NDA after my half yearly so I could technically give the examinations but I didn’t have to. I went there half an hour late because it was permitted to reach that late. I sat outside for that period of time. I attempted only one question: describe the person sitting on your left or right. It was an English paper.

Sir, were you always good with creative expression while at school?

A lot depends on your environment. So, when I came to NDA, I met all these people who were great at writing, acting, etc. That was the only time I was exposed to all this. But, in school we never participated in such activities. In fact, people who would debate were not very popular amongst us. They were nerds who would go and talk. My mom used to be after my life to take part in these events. My extra curricula’s were sports and I used to hang out with my friends. So, the answer to your question specifically, no I wasn’t good with creative expression while at school. It is ironic that I am now in politics.

Sir, do you think the interest of the youth going into the armed forces has increased or reduced?

The interesting thing now is, if you take a very close look, that if you compare salaries of govt. officials and salaries of employees of the private sector, the govt. salaries are nearly double the salaries of the pvt. sector. A couple of years ago, when there was a boom in the economy, the govt. jobs were highly sought after. Things are different now. It is quite difficult to explain this trend.

It is true that govt. jobs provide one with stability and an assured salary. Also, the need for adventure varies from generation to generation. So, your parents might sound conventional but they wanted to be more practical. You think with your heart but because of their experiences, your parents will want to think with their mind. The salaries in the pvt. sector are pretty decent.

So, those could be the reasons for the interest of the youth going down, concerning the armed forces and other govt jobs. But, how do we overcome that? The answer, I feel, lies in Society. What do you find closer to your heart, respect or a paycheque. We also need to recognise that many people sacrifice their lives and leave their families to protect the country.

The quality of life matters as well. There are so many opportunities in the Army. It is a very clean environment. Maybe advertising would increase recruitment. However, there is no dearth of the people coming into the army. There are passionate people from all parts of the country wanting to serve their country.

Sir, my grandfather is a retired Brigadier from the Army and he told me to ask you this question. How does a regular day in office look like to you and do you find time to pursue your passion for shooting?

Shooting from the gun is over now. It is now shooting from the mouth. My son is participating so I am still connected to shooting in a way. But there is no regular day in office. The amount of work one has to do in politics is tremendous. I am now reconciling to the fact that 4 hours of sleep is ideal for one’s life. I have to read a lot. So, as an I&B Minister, I have to know all the headlines of the newspapers. I also have to monitor the news channels and keep a track of the latest news. We even have to connect with social media, which has increased the workload by 10 times. I also have to learn the ability to understand humans. So, when a person walks in, I have to know, within seconds, the reason for him to talk to me. As a politician, I need to know how I can work with the person in a manner that is beneficial to both of us. I also have to think of events that I can organise in my constituency to connect people. I need to know civil laws as well.

This will help me maximise the help provided to my constituency. Now, I worry about the farmers as well. It is a competition and only the fittest survive. I have a few key words for myself. In shooting, what happens is that targets are flying at about 90 kmph and one has to shoot in half a second. It might seem complicated but to a good shooter it is as natural as breathing. By the final day, you have a keyword: trigger. So, if you say the word to yourself, everything sets into motion. My motto when I was training for my first event was, I see it, I break it. Now, my keywords are alertness, grace and communication. Grace means handling yourself well under pressure. Alertness is absorbing anything happening in the environment. Communication happens with expression and body language. I can know by someone’s body language whether they are trustworthy or not.

Sir, why did your interest remain only in shooting?

My interest was in leaving the house and playing. It started with cricket and boxing. I played many more games. When I passed out from INA, I got the best sportsman award. My interest was not only constricted to shooting.

Sir, could you tell us a few agendas under your tenure?

Right now, we have the largest number of youth in the Country. The youth need a job. Right now, it is important to provide an abundance of opportunities to the youth so that they can be used to aid the development of the country. Hence, education and skilling them has become very important. So, no the govt. has brought in a skill program. We even have a skill Ministry. Companies/ Industries which participate in helping skill students get paid by the govt. But we will only pay 75% of the money after the youth gets a job. They will contribute in helping with the infrastructure of the Country. The scheme of Make in India works in a similar manner. Entrepreneurship in another important factor. The govt will give loans to people who want to do something with their lives. This is especially beneficial to those who might not have an address or other forms of documentation. To avail a loan under the govt’s scheme, all the person needs is an identity card. The experience of the govt. is that these person return the loans. Somewhere, there is a change coming. However, in a vast country like ours, it will be gradual

When did you start preparing for the 2004 Olympics and what was the people’s reaction toward your ambitious desire?

That is literally my whole life story. Before 2004, people would feel very awkward if you told them you are a sportsman. I had stopped introducing myself as an army guy because I wanted to expose myself to the harsh reality of the sporting world. I felt every time, I was pushed down, I became more determined to do something. I was pretty sure I was going to perform well at the Olympics. I would read about my competitors. So, if I did not have a coach at that time, I would at least come to know what they were doing. Then, I would imbibe their training skills in my own training. That was a great lesson for me. Also, I realised that Govt policies can help you if you can explain to the Govt officers what you want. So, I would explain to the Sports Ministry why I needed their support. It was necessary to keep targets for yourself. It was important to be focussed and not lose sight of the goal. Gradually, I became more confident in my abilities. We might have not had the resources of other teams but we had our skill and talent. I remember an incident in Finland.

I did not have a coach at that time. I had not won any medals but I was very confident in my abilities. At that time, I was learning from my friend’s coach. He (the friend) had been one of the top shooters. He was practising in the range next to me. Everyone else left but the two of us continued to practise. I was dependent on this friend for a ride back. The reason my friend hadn’t gone back yet was because his coach felt that he wasn’t fulfilling his potential. His coach wouldn’t allow him to come back till he reached a particular target. I would imagine his coach was telling me the same thing. My friend was ready to give up. After a couple of days, at the World Championship, I reached my target. I had never reached it before! I discovered the mental block had been completely psychological. However, in the second round, I became very nervous of everyone watching and failed to do well. So, these are lessons that I still remember. I lost the competition by a few points. From there I flew to the Commonwealth Games. The lessons I learnt at the World Championship helped me win a medal.

Sir, why the inclination for double trap shooting?

The first idea was to get into the Indian team. I loved the flying targets. There are three events in shooting. There is trap and skeet. So, the first time we competed, we didn’t even know the rules. We were travelling in train to reach Chennai. In the train, we read the rules of the game a couple of times. That was a qualifying event. I won a medal in all three events but I qualified only for double trap. Which is why I chose double trap.

Sir, why do you think you were chosen as the flag bearer in the 2006 Commonwealth Games?

Thankfully, due to merit, I assume. It was great honour and a privilege and a responsibility as well. The moment you wear your country’s colours, you feel the weight of expectations on you. When you walk into a stadium, with the spotlight on India and carrying the flag, it just feels tremendous.

Sir, what are your expectations from this year’s Olympics?

I hope the entire contingent wins more medals than last time. Right now, India is a country everyone is looking up to. One of the projections is also sport. What happens when you win is that it isn’t only for that particular sport. It is for your Country. It is also a psychological barrier that breaks for everyone. When I started shooting, people would say that Indians can’t win in Olympics. All that changes, when you have the level of confidence. Even they have their limitations. Even if we don’t have the resources, we have family strength and culture with us. I used to carry the Gita with me. I didn’t read it but there was a shloka which said: just do your work and don’t worry about the fruit. I would put this shloka into practice. We also have a competitive environment. When someone achieves success in one field, it affects the mind of everyone. For that reason, I believe, India should do well.

Sir, do you plan on training the youth of the country in Shooting?

I had this discussion with Gopichand in 2008, before he started coaching. He told me he wanted to start coaching and I told him I wanted to join the administration. He asked me why. I told him that if you coach, you will do a brilliant job but you would be limited to those 10-12 people. But as an administrator, I would ensure that the entire process would be efficient. I think I am more suited for administration.

Sir, would you call yourself a strictly routine person or do you take things at a relaxed pace?

Having fought in Kashmir, I can never fall in a regular pace. The mind-set is you have to be unpredictable and I have adopted it. I believe I am excited about doing new things. I would call myself unpredictable but with a huge pace of work. I have high standards with whatever I do.

Sir, what is your family life like?

I think now that my son has become a teenager, he thinks of me as his best friend. His mother is stricter, so he finds me pretty cool now. I think family life is very important because it is your core strength. Your family needs to understand you and believe in what you are doing. I give credit of my success to my family. They have stood by me through it all. Many a times. I wouldn’t even know what was happening and the lives of my children. I would be so focussed on my sport. My wife and my mom stood through it all.

How did your parents react to your joining politics?

They realised they didn’t have much of a choice. Even when I had decided to become a sports person, I faced some opposition. The army has a shortage of officers so it does not look kindly upon them leaving their core service. I had to show them a certificate three times, ensuring that I was ready to serve in an area under adverse conditions. I was leaving a life of stability but with my wife as a doctor, our lives were easier. So, the financial crunch was not that much. My parents had realised, by that time, that if I set my heart to do something, I would achieve it. It is the journey that counts, not the destination.

Sir, how does the I&B Ministry exercise control over the film industry?

Films has got nothing to do with the state. They belong to the Centre. Typically, we don’t exercise control as such. We have a certification board, which other countries have as well. It certifies the age appropriate for watching the film. We don’t have absolute freedom of speech in our country. The Constitution says that under certain circumstances the freedom to speech can be barred. We are applying the same principle to cinema as well. The certification board is supposed to act as an adjudicator. Usually, the director wants to U certificate. This would mean a larger audience base for him. The certification board says that to obtain a U certificate, the director would have to censor the inappropriate parts of the film. That is where the problem arises. Sometimes, the decision might be wrong. So, what may be decent for me won’t be decent for someone else. The person at the Certificate Board makes the decision on behalf of the people. However, if the director is not happy with the verdict, he/she is welcome to challenge it.

Sir how has the journey from an army officer to a minister has been? Do you consider yourself successful?

Considering yourself successful is restricted to your individual perception. I have had the experience of the armed forces which you cannot pay to get ever. So, that has moulded me in a certain way. I have also had the experience of playing sports for the country and making it proud. I believe I am here because of merit. So, God has given time his exposure. Every time there is a challenge, big or small, I keep at it and don’t give up.

What message would give to the youth of our country?

This time will never come back. You need to use the time to live your life to the fullest. Have time for fun, it is necessary. Let me simply say that have belief in your dreams. You must dream and a belief in yourself. Once you do that, everything will fall into line.

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