For years, he has battered many shuttles. Sometime gentle, many times ruthless with his smashes, the feathered projectile has feared Kota Vaikunta Pai for long. And it is still getting smashed.
The passionate baddie, while unsympathetic to the shuttle, is indeed compassionate and wisdom abounds in him. And for him, life is a game which is not about winning but more about participating. Though he has played many games during his childhood, his passion for badminton continues even today. And he now is headed to Turkey to participate in the BWF World Senior Championships 2013, a veterans' badminton tournament where he is vying for the doubles honour along with his partner Ramamurthy Naidu Manickam.
"At 73, it is a golden chance," says Pai whose interest in sports began at a young age. "I started playing badminton when I was in school. I used to enjoy playing different games - cricket, volleyball, badminton, football and more. In fact I was the captain of the cricket team. I continued playing all games in college too," he says.
When he joined Bosch, the organisation encouraged him to continue with his passion. "But I could not continue playing every game. So I picked up badminton which is a wonderful game and I have been concentrating on it since then," says Pai, who has now been playing the game for nearly four decades.
It was in February this year that Pai was selected by the Karnataka Badminton Association to participate at the all-India tournament from where he got selected to take part in the Turkey tournament.
Having graduated from MES college in 1965, Prakash Padukone was his junior in college. "I wanted to be in every game but did not have people to direct me properly. My parents were from a village.
I was good in many sports but I could not give much time as I had to work for my living. In fact, cricket was a game I fell in love with and I had my own cricket team. I was also one of the founder members of the Wilson Garden Club. I only took up badminton because it's faster and makes for good exercise. I coached children and youngsters at Bosch in badminton too," says Pai.
Today, he holds around 30 to 35 shields and continues to play at the Bosch Club. "I am grateful to my company which has allowed me to pursue my passion. Like a drill master in school and PT master in college, I had the company to encourage me. I consider it as one of the good clubs of Bangalore," says Pai.
But Pai laments over the lack of encouragement from the Indian Badminton League. "They are not giving full support to veterans' tournaments the way Karnataka Badminton Association does. Today, we are spending our own money to participate at the international level. Seems like they only concentrate on cricket. However I don't have any regrets because I am living a dream and thinking of Turkey," he says.
Pai is a retired HR officer and for this veteran, discipline is the key to healthy living. "I play to keep myself fit. My wife and I get up by 4.30 am, go for a walk, meditate and after everything, I go to play badminton for one and a half hours. I am ready to give up on breakfast and lunch, but never badminton," he says. "I don't smoke or drink and I am a vegetarian. It is a myth that vegetarians can't be fit. I want to prove the belief wrong," he adds.
Pai has two daughters and four grandchildren. "Though my family does play the game, they are not very serious about it. My grandchildren have taken up different games," says Pai who plans to start a Veterans' Badminton Association in Bangalore. "That will be my next job, which I will take up on priority," he adds.