After 14 years in Chennai overseeing the SRFI (Squash Rackets
Federation of India) coaching and performance programme, Major
(ret) S Maniam is heading home to Malaysia ...
S R SURYANARAYAN reports for SRFI
A journey that was fulfilling
and enjoyable right through
May 16, 2002 will remain an important day in Maj (retd)
S. Maniam's life.
That was the day Maniam had landed in India from Malaysia, with
loads of ideas for the dream squash project of Mr N.
Ramachandran (the then SRFI Secretary-General).
Three courts at the Nehru park beckoned him. The moment was apt
to reflect on Chinese thinker and philosopher Lao Tzu famous
saying, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single
step.” So it was for Maniam.
A structured development concept and an unquenchable passion for
the sport in hand, wherewithal assured and an in-born confidence
to face challenges that army life had taught him, the Malaysian
expert, who had been associated with his country's squash
development for long was ready for the big step
Fourteen years later and after the Indian Squash Academy
had virtually triggered a revolution in the sport in the country
with several highs to cherish and several memorable moments to
recount, Maj Maniam, who was the SRFI Consultant Coach and the
longest serving foreign coach for any sport in India, is ready
to leave, return to his home country where he will take over as
Director of the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia.
"Bitter sweet" he submitted were his feelings as
he looked back.
because he had to leave his 'second home', so 'emotionally
attached' was he to Chennai, the ISA and his work and sweet
because of all the wonderful experiences.
"Coaching Indian children was something
special. Perhaps it had to do with the Indian culture of guru-sishya
tradition, the young boys and girls gave me lot of respect .
"They were hungry for knowledge. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge
and experience with the coaches also. I established a rapport
that enabled me to impart efficiently and effectively. The
players interaction in particular gave me a special thrill.
"They bonded well. They were listening and implementing, giving
me a feeling that I have to give more. I kept sharing and
learning in the process. The joy cannot be described in words
but will remain as memories," he went on, reflecting his
Then again, for someone whose passion for teaching is well known
(Maj Maniam, who is also the Director of Coaching and
Development of World Squash has conducted over 100 coaching
courses throughout the world), it was natural that he did not
leave coach education untouched.
"It was my desire to have good quality and competent coaches
throughout India. When I came here just a handful of coaches
were there but I am happy the country now has a panel of coaches
who have gone through various coaching courses and are oriented
towards structured coaching programmes," he said.
years may be a speck in history but in Maj Maniam's life an
important chunk of his squash career.
But time went fast, developments too kept pace and the ISA had
become a full-fledged institution with a character and bonding
that was the hallmark of its progressive outlook.
Memories flood his mind of all that wonderful things that had
happened, the achievements he was associated with and that
include the Indian team's good show in 2002 world junior
championship, Saurav Ghosal winning the British junior
Open, Anaka bagging the Asian junior titles,
Joshna and Dipika Karthik (Pallikal) picking the Commonwealth
doubles gold, the men winning the Asian games team gold
and Harinder Pal Sandhu excelling in the Asian beach Games
besides the numerous other titles our players earned.
Understandably there is contentment in Maj Maniam's words. He is
also happy that he is leaving the programme in safe hands from
where he believes Indian squash will keep growing.
Poncha (national coach) his Sishya is "prime and ready,
to continue the march" he said proudly.
"It is my desire to visit the Academy every year to see for
myself how big the 'tree' has grown. I have told Ramy (Mr
Ramachandran) himself about this," he said with a smile.
Then wistfully he talks of how blessed he was! For one who
admits to being a non-believer in religioius practices, Maj
Maniam still felt 'blessed' was the right word to describe the
turns in his life.
remember and I used to tell this to friends too, it all started
with my giving a lift to Mr Ramachandran in Guernsey, England
when he was there for a WSF meeting. As it happened he gave a
lift to my career in squash," he said with a glint in his
"I cannot also forget Srivatsan Subramaniam the then Joint
Secretary who was heavily involved in my move to India.
"Not just that, when I decided to take this assignment I had the
consent of all important sports functionaries in Malaysia, who
sent me off with a pat on my back. Now despite this long
absence, they are still ready to receive me with open arms.What
more can I say!"
Squash also helped Maj Maniam weave his own little world of
interests in India. He loved his golf in Chennai and his friends
at the course; he enjoyed his doubles squash at the MCC courts
and the friendly banter there. Also he was much involved in the
Malaysian Association of South India as its President.
"I will cherish every such moment," he said. Maj Manian also
loved travelling and India provided him plentiful opportunities.
have been to several places but what will remain etched in my
memory is the trip to Kashmir, Ladakh and Leh border areas which
are cut off for civilians.
My friend Brigadier Ray Mallik, father of Karan Mallik, a player
whom I had trained, ensured that with necessary permission.
Driving with armoured vehicles for protection and through
snow-filled paths was just amazing. My wife, my pillar of
strength, and I consider that probably the best experience
In short, he has just one word - memorable - to sum
up his life in India as he bids farewell to his many friends,
with a touch of Malay:
"Terima Kasih Dan Jumpa lagi," (thank you and see you
Here at SquashSite we'd like to thank the Major for his
contributions over the years (which we hope will continue) and
wish him luck in his new ventures ...