Child play! Jasmine Singh12 August, 2010

When there is a will, there are ways to teach underprivileged children. Satinder Pal Bajwa is investing his talent and passion for squash to educate poor children.

Almost everything comes with an expiry date, unless you have insured yourself with some US-based company, which promises to keep your body preserved for 200 years. Any takers? Not many, we guess! Charity too comes with a limited life span. How long can one go on feeding, looking after, caring for the 'not so self-sufficient' lot without funds flowing in? A meeting with England-born Satinder Pal Bajwa brings us closer to the answer, something that can survive for a long period, without any pills or mummification!

"Talent," blurts out Satinder Pal Bajwa, "This is the only thing that would never rust, if only utilised in the right manner." We catch up with this enthusiastic man at his Khelshala, an NGO running in Attawa, Chandigarh and he is happy to welcome us with open arms. A director of squash at Harvard University from 1999-2010, with his clipped British accent, explains about his work.

It was the thought of giving something back to his native place that brought this aeronautical engineer to India and kickstart Project Khelshala. "I grew up in England, was good at sports like soccer, cricket and squash. I went ahead to do my aeronautical engineering, took voluntary retirement from my work and squash became my passion, the game that I was really good at. In fact, I could apply body mechanics and engineering stuff on this sport," he says.

It goes a little further, "I trained Pakistani squash player Mir Zaman Gul. In the 90s, I was invited to Mumbai, where I worked with Siddharth Suchde, who will now be representing India in the Commonwealth Games. Often during my visit to India, I used to get souvenirs, which I would distribute. Then, I thought of giving something to my country, that I have - talent in the sport. So, came into being Khelshala," adds Satinder.

Eager to talk about something close to his heart, he says, "Khelshala is the place for the kids of Attawa village wherein they can combine the elite, expensive sport with studies." Khelshala takes care of 36 children of Attawa village coming from families having a monthly income of Rs 7,000. Out of the 36, another 14 or 15 children come from the voluntary organisation called Yuvsatta.

"People generally think that sports is no good. I want to tell them that a sport like squash can actually teach us so much in life like discipline and responsibility.” A unique thing about Khelshala is the 'rotation' process. "A batch of children play, after which they go for studies, where a volunteer Simran Mann teaches them English and other subjects. After which they learn music, and do some yoga." He adds, "I know that squash is a very expensive sport, which is why I want to teach these kids who would otherwise never get a chance to learn it. Who knows tomorrow they might represent the country at the international level?"

Satinder is excited about this dream. "At present, Khelshala caters to the children of Attawa. I might adopt a few more villages," he adds. Sustaining a project like this needs money. Khelshala gets aid from individuals, but to make this project work, Satinder is planning to open a squash academy. "I would train people who can pay for the lessons. And the money that I get will be invested in Khelshala." but as of now Saurav Ghosal is really the number one. He has everything it takes, he should be in the top-five. In the women’s category, it has to be Joshna Chinnappa. That girl is very good but has suffered due to bad luck.”