Tennikoit Association of Tiruppur turns 40

Members assemble at the crack of dawn at Dr Nanjappa School grounds in Tiruppur
| Photo Credit: M Jegadesh Kumar

On a brisk morning at Dr Nanjappa School campus in Tiruppur, the playground is buzzing. As we walk along the trees shimmering in the first beams of the morning sun, another quaint playground echoes with laughter. A group of men, all in their 60s, enjoy a game of tennikoit as they throw and catch a rubber ring over a net on a badminton-style court. They are members of Tennikoit Association of Tiruppur, started in 1983 with a handful of friends led by Ditty Balu of the popular Ditty Knitting group.

“Our club’s speciality is that the minimum age of any member is 60,” laughs V G Ravichandran, vice president and one of the founding members of the club which has completed 40 years. “It’s an energetic and fun sport that promotes hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and general fitness. We started coming here in our 30s and our good health today in our 70s is due to this morning routine,” he says adding that the highlight is the camaraderie they share over crisp paruppu vadais and refreshing filter coffee after the game.

The highlight is the camaraderie the members share

The highlight is the camaraderie the members share
| Photo Credit:
M Jegadesh Kumar

After Ditty Balu’s death in Poland in 1989, Ravichandran took over. “People turned up in hordes at Balu’s funeral procession. He was a great role model in business and fitness. He got us all hooked on to the game and the routine has made us fit. It’s a get together akin to England’s Hyde Park where we engage in healthy debates and discussions, and disperse feeling happy, and young at heart.”

Ravichandran sits on a raised platform and regales us with funny anecdotes from his childhood, and members stop by to salute him in a gesture of respect, all ears. “He makes it a point to make most of us laugh our blues away,” says KPP Sigamany, MD of KPR Groups and president of the club. “Amidst our members is Ramasamy (Ramu) a self-made man who built an empire of auto spare parts from nothing, but he has decided to spend his retired life away from business. We learn from each other’s experiences. It’s the togetherness that binds us and draws us to the ground every morning. We have someone from a low economic status and the wealthiest man of the district fighting it out in a game of tennikoit,” says Sigamany.

The association now has over 100 members. “We started with an annual membership of ₹100, now it is ₹10,000,” says Sivaji Palaniswami, secretary and one of the founding members adding that they assemble at the crack of dawn and start the day with a 30-minute walk, followed by a game of tennikoit. “It’s not only a good exercise for our body and mind, it gives a kick start to our day. Our objective is to play in true sportsmanship. We also hold annual internal tournaments. Many members regained health after they started playing the game regularly. One game lasts 20 minutes and we start the day with a good 90-minute workout.”

A game in progress

A game in progress
| Photo Credit:
M Jegadesh Kumar

Besides fitness, the morning rendezvous provides a platform to share success stories of members, who are self-made entrepreneurs. “It motivates our new young members. We are the first to be present at any family function of the members,” says M Chidambaram, 76, an advocate. One of the oldest members, E Palaniswamy of Armstrong Knitting, quotes the lines from Tamil literature that goes ‘Yaadhum oorey yaavarum kaelir’ ( to us, all towns are one, and all people are our kin) to drive home the point. Adds the 80-year-old, “I still come here every day to play, laugh, and stay happy. At the ground, we are a single unit.”

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