Land of Cherry Blossoms and Beautiful River Beckons; City Tailor in Despair
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was in March that the tailor first heard of Kitakami, a Japanese city known for its splendid cherry blossoms. ‘’A friend looked it up on the ‘net’ for me. It’s a beautiful place with a river,’’ on Monday, one hand cradling the wheel of his sewing machine, K Vijayan remembered with a wistful gleam in his eyes.
To one side, a half-stitched black pants lay in a muddle. One day soon it would be part of a school boy’s uniform. ‘New Stitching,’ just a shout away from DPI Junction, is in what harried tailors call the ‘school re-opening mess.’ ‘’Busy time. And anyway, I would need at least Rs 1.25 lakh to make it to Kitakami,’’ he said.
The medium-sized city in Iwate Prefecture will host the 18th Masters Athletics Championships in September this year. And the bespectacled, nondescript tailor from Thiruvananthapuram has been invited to compete in the 200 metre and 400 metre races in the 55-plus division. He had won gold in both events at the 35th National Veterans Athletics Championships held in Coimbatore earlier this year.
In March, the Masters’ Athletic Federation of India (MAFI) informed him that he had been picked for the Asian meet in Japan. ‘’The last date for applying to MAFI, in fact, ended on May 15. But the organisers of the Asian meet say you need apply just two months before the event,’’ Vijayan said.
He has been a regular at the state and national veterans meets since he turned 40. The medals and certificates that he has won in his 15-year-career are numerous, but veterans events lack the one thing that help athletes like Vijayan - solid cash. ‘’The four-day nationals in Coimbatore put me back by Rs 6,000. I had to take a hotel room for five days,’’ he said.
Every time he scores at the nationals, this man gets to hear of some exotic foreign city which, eventually, he never gets to see.
In 2007 it was Riccione, a seaside resort in Northern Italy where the 17th World Masters Athletics Championships were held. His desperate hunt for a sponsor ended in dejection, and Riccione remained as distant as ever.
Have you ever heard of a place called Jyvaskyla? Vijayan first heard of the Finnish city in 2012, when he qualified for the world meet that year.
Naturally, he didn’t go. It was Taipei’s turn to disappoint him in 2013. He qualified for the 17th Asian meet, but stayed back. And now, the athlete in him has added Kitakami - ‘’the beautiful place with a river’’ - to his list of dreams. But the tailor in him has little time to blame fate. ‘’There’s much work at the shop, and I’m alone. The guy who used to help me comes in only occasionally nowadays,’’ he says, glancing at his machine.