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delhi At the Soniya Vihar Water Sports Club. (Express photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

How a modest water sports club in Delhi is giving wings to dreams of many youngsters

Ten years ago, when Chandan Kumar (now 25) was in Class 10, he spotted his friend Anil Rathi in an Army uniform. Dazzled by the uniform, he asked his friend how he managed to get into the force. That’s when Rathi took him to Soniya Vihar Water Sports Club, the place where the former learned canoeing and kayaking which eventually paved the way for him to join the Army through sports quota.

“That was the first time I saw people canoeing and kayaking,” Kumar recalled. “I had always been interested in sports and immediately wanted to master this too,” he said.

Now a sepoy at the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Kumar credits his selection wholly to his love for canoeing.

For Kumar, like many others who come to the club, the sports club is not just an outlet for recreation but also a route to get the coveted government job, particularly in the defence forces, and a way out of their middle-class life.

Said Manjeet Shekhawat, the head coach at the club, “Our aim is to not only train students in different water sports but to also enable them to get government jobs through the sports quota.”

Perhaps, his students securing defence jobs is a way for Shekhawat to realise his own dreams. Shekhawat earlier wanted to get into the Border Security Force (BSF) but couldn’t due to the rigid height requirements of the paramilitary force. Since then, he has been training children and athletes at the Soniya Vihar club, which was established six years ago.

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