Billiards Champion Revanna Umadevi Nagaraj was the Nari Shakti Puraskar awardee for 2017. Umadevi’s first stint with the game was in the year 1989 when she joined the horticulture department in Karnataka as a typist. She was 23 then. SheThePeople.TV spoke to Revanna Umadevi to know more about her journey. Some edited snippets from the conversation:
“Our Office was in Lalbagh, Bangalore, where I grew up. Sometimes we used to stay back till late night at the office. I would go to the Karnataka Government Secretariat Club to play table tennis. There I would always ogle at this green table top and colourful balls on it. Soon I started practising and enjoyed playing Billiards. Later I became a member of the Karnataka State Billiards Association. It is also called as “Mecca of Cue Sports”. I loved the ambience because I could practice quality hours. When I became State No 3 in Snooker in 1996, National No 3 in Billiards, the rankings inspired me to take the sport forward,” she shares with SheThePeople.TV.
When asked what drives her towards billiards, she claimed, “Challenges.”
Umadevi says, “Obstacles drives me towards my dream. I never turned away from any challenges. I was not getting much importance when I won the tournament several times, maybe because I was an ordinary typist and didn’t know how to speak English fluently. All these years I took care of billiards even when I was in bad shape. Today, Billiards taking care of me. It is amazing.”
Her journey wasn’t a bed of roses
En route the incredible journey, the roads weren’t exactly smooth for Umadevi. She could not continue her studies after college due to her family circumstances and started working at her father’s Looms factory and went for typing classes in the evening.
“All these years, I took care of billiards even when I was in bad shape. Today, Billiards taking care of me.”
So how did she foray into the sport? Umadevi explained, “Initially there was no support when I started winning the championships, slowly my family came around.”
Further, she adds, “In 2010 my husband pushed me towards my dream. I was to play at the World Snooker Championship 2010 in Syria, but lack of money kept me far from travelling. Due to some financial constraints I couldn’t pay for the competition. That time my husband BG Nagaraja gave me the money to go to Syria to participate in the Snooker World Championship. Since then I have been performing well in this field.”
On asking about her strategies before a game, Umadevi replied, “When I lose any championship my strategy is to practice harder. I wake up at 6.30 am in the morning and prepare breakfast and lunch. I get ready and go to the office like a normal government servant. I practice early in the morning before I leave for the office and during the lunch hour. Evening practices are more fruitful.”
“I want to motivate the younger players to concentrate towards their goals now. I want to inspire through my journey. Although I will have to learn to give a speech about Billiards and Snooker,” she Umadevi.
Umadevi had played at international levels as well. According to her, “India lacks stability.”
“The facilities we get from the Government does not reach everybody. It reaches only to influential persons,” she claimed.
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Has sports liberated women?
“It is not difficult, if you get support from your family. Family support is most important for women to achieve in any field,” she said. “Like I started at 29. Age is definitely not a factor in this form of sports. If we want we can make time for ourselves,” she claimed.
“After receiving Nari Shakthi Puraskar, I have decided to continue playing while being at my job. So it’s the willpower that counts,” she added.
No gender inequality in billiards
There’s no scope for discrimination in Billiards. “I was taught by the industry’s finest. If Aravind Savur hadn’t taught me, I would not have become the Champion I am today. S Jairaj (former coach of the national billiards team) and MG Jayaram coached me at the Association. My Billiards friends would correct me whenever I am wrong. Practising with B Bhaskar I won two National Billiards Championship because he used to encourage me. And almost all the friends teach me at the Karnataka State Billiards Association,” she explains. “It all depends upon our improvement in the field too,” adds the player.
So what prevents many girls from taking up Billiards in the first place?
Umadevi says, “It is difficult for school going girls to take up this sport seriously, because studies come first.”
“But even during school years, many junior players have become National Champions and also World Champions because they come directly from a school or college where they can practice hard,” she adds.
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Coaching is her long-term plan
“I have been planning for the past one year to teach the youngsters at my place. I have my own Black Heart Tips Table from England and coaching would be my long-term plan,” said Umadevi.
Tips for budding players
“Any sport played joyfully and with respect is worth your time. With the grind for daily work, sports or cultural activities are necessary, because it develops our mind and team spirit,” she signs off.