SIDDHARTH PAREKH (37) believes he made the right choice by playing at a World Championship event for billiards over attempting an entrance exam of Common Aptitude Test (CAT) back in 2002 which changed his life. Parekh, who is a Travel Ticket Examiner (TTE) at Dockyard Road station on the Central Railway (CR), now holds four international medals for different International Billiard Championships.
“I studied for at least a year to pursue my Masters in Business Administration (MBA). While the CAT was in December, my first international billiards senior championship in Sydney was also scheduled on the same day. My choice of playing billiards over attempting CAT became the turning point of my life,” Parekh said.
Parekh, who has been playing billiards for the last 17 years, has bagged two bronze medals at World Billiards Championships, a bronze at Asian Billiards Championships and gold at Asian Billiards Sport Championship. While he plans to leave on Wednesday for his next Championship event in Qatar, he recalls how he discovered billiards. He joined Hindu Gymkhana in Marine Lines for playing table tennis as compared to his regular practice plan that changed his life, he said. “The gymkhana boasts of the finest sports players who are the best in the country. I was done with my tennis practice when I went inside the air-conditioned (AC) room inside to cool myself off. We saw some senior railway officials playing billiards and it was a game worth watching,” he recalls. “I practise for at least twelve-sixteen hours a day. Billiards is a game of patience and practice and I try to be the fittest by achieving both,” he claims.
Siddharth recalled how he learnt the tricks of the game. “I would play against them in the gym and learn the finer tricks of the game from them. Today, we compete against each other on international levels. My national ranking in junior billiards championship was three which helped me qualify for the railways job,” he added.
He talks about working for four hours, followed by rushing to practise in the afternoon in the earlier years. “Due to the encouragement given to sports players from the railways, I was able to balance my work and game properly. Due to the scheme named Centre for Excellence offered by the railways, I was able to enjoy 350 days of special leaves in the past three years which helped me focus better on my practice,” he added.
Parekh now aims to win more awards, especially the gold medal in World Championships which he awaits. “It gives you such a high when you convert your passion into your profession. Our country sees a lot of billiards champions in the world and I am happy I am one of them,” he added. “Siddharth is a great talent and has been bringing laurels to the organisation. General Manager, Central Railway, D K Sharma, Central Railway Sports Association president Ashutosh Gangal, its secretary Sunil Kumar, sports officer Ashok Shandilya have provided constant motivational force to the players. This can be seen from the fact that Central Railway is always among toppers in the sports field,” Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer of the Central Railway, said.