CHENNAI: Training sessions at Jawaharlal Nehru outdoor stadium. Core strengthening at the gym. Badminton and table tennis for leisure. A toned physique, brisk gait and a sporty demeanour, T Rukmini Devi looks anything but 64. The sexagenarian’s daily schedule is packed with workout sessions, alongside other club roles. She is not hassled by her hectic routine. CE caught up with Rukmini after her morning practice to know what keeps her going.
“I took up sports out of my interest. My father served the military services back then. Our lifestyle was active, organised and disciplined. He brought me up as a bold girl. Right from inter-school competitions, parades, to international level competitions, I’ve taken part in all kinds of activities. After marriage, I had to take a break to focus on my children. Now I’m back after 15 years. That void is filled and I’m living my dream again,” said Rukmini who was born in Mumbai.
Rukmini moved to Chennai from Hyderabad in 1980 and started working with the Indian Overseas Bank (IOB). She retired as the assistant manager in the Public Relations Department four years back.
Aging while playing
She finished her schooling in Bengaluru and moved to Hyderabad for higher studies. “Nowadays, I take part in flag hoisting, we distribute sweets to underprivileged kids and spend our time at old age homes or Corporation schools,” said Rukmini, who lives with her husband Chandrakanthan and two daughters in T Nagar.
After completing her MSc in Physics from Osmania University, she joined the Indian Railways through sports quota and worked there for two years. She was part of the Indian Railways Basketball Team. Between 1974 and 1980, she represented and captained the Andhra Pradesh Basketball Team and the Andhra Pradesh Handball Team in the years 1978 and 1979. In 1982, she joined the Indian Overseas Bank. She headed the basketball and tennikoit team.
After a gap of 15 years, she represented India at the Veterans Athletics (now known as Masters Athletic Meet) in Thailand in 2008, Malaysia in 2009, Taipei in 2012 and Singapore in 2016. In the 2016 Masters Athletic Meet, she won a gold medal in the pole vault, a silver medal in the high jump and a bronze medal in the hammer throw. At the National Masters Athletic Championship held at Bengaluru in 2017 in the above 60 age category, Rukmini won a gold medal for the high jump, pole vault and 4x400 relay with a silver medal in the hammer throw and 4x100 relay.
The laurels continued at the nationals championship held at Guntur from February 6 to 10 where she won three gold medals in the above 60 age category for the high jump, hammer throw and pole vault. She has created a national record for pole vault covering a distance of 1.65 m with the previous record being only 1 m.
Rukmini seems invincible at this point as she also won gold medals for the hammer throw and triple jump and a silver medal for triple jump at the first-ever Women’s Athletic Nationals held at Goa on June 29 and 30. Rukmini has received many awards at the club, district and international level. Recently, she was also honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award in sports by the All Indian Lioness Multiple and Lions Clubs.
“One needs the right exposure. I prefer working out on the field or dancing in my class any day over watching television. We get to meet people from different countries on international tours. Our fitness is nothing compared to their dedication. So I want to make the best of what’s available here, train people, learn, and achieve. I’m glad to see many women taking part in these competitions and bringing pride to our nation,” she said.
Passionate about dance from a young age, she recently joined the Athmalaya School of Dance for Elders. She is also being trained for badminton and table tennis for the veterans group. Rukmini is known to be passionate towards service to mankind. She enjoys singing and dancing in her spare time. She has also learned Kuchipudi from guru Rajasulochana and comperes for Doordarshan along with tournaments and meetings.
“My family motivates me. People can always find their second calling at any point in life. One needs to speak their mind to the children and set their priorities right. Never use taking care of grandchildren or retirement as an excuse. It will make you sluggish and invite unwanted thoughts. As parents, we need our independence too,” said Rukmini who is preparing for an Asian meet in December in Malaysia.