I used to be a backbencher: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

Rajyavardhan in Manipal University
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In a rare candid mood, Olympian shooter and former Union Minister, Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore interacted with the students of Manipal University Jaipur (MUJ) in a free-wheeling discussion. Right from the beginning, Rathore made it absolutely clear, that he was not going to make a formal speech or deliver a motivational lecture. He invited the students to ask him questions and in his answers, he deftly included the motivational element which received thunderous applause from the students. Below are some interesting excerpts from the tête-à-tête:

Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore addressing the students at Manipal University Jaipur.

On his being a student

The Jaipur Rural MP, Rathore said that he was not much interested in studies and was always a backbencher. One subject he hated was Maths. He jocularly stated that it was to miss the 12th standard board exams that he tried for selection in NDA and got in. On a more serious, however, he said that it was very apparent right from the beginning that he was going to join the army given that his family has produced army officers for generations. However, he did mention that at one stage he decided that he was no longer going to be a backbencher and started sitting in the first row. And that, he said, made a huge difference for him to imbibe the lessons since he was listening to the instructors more. He was always a sportsperson and won medals on a regular basis in different competitions.

Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore planting a sapling in the campus of Manipal University Jaipur 

On joining the army

“As I have just stated, our family for generations have been either in the army or in the police. I have always been surrounded by family members who have owned and fired guns and rifles. Therefore, it was only given that I was going to join the army. In 1992, which was one of the peak years of militancy in J&K, I was commanding a company as a captain of the 9 Grenadiers. The 126 men that I was leading were elder to me since I was only 22 years old. However, I told them that to get out alive we all have to be cent percent focused on ensuring that no terrorist or militant crosses our area and sure enough they made sure that the militants could not cross the area which was under their ambit. My greatest award has not been medals and trophies, but the manner in which the militants said that do not cross this army officer’s area or you will get killed. This was informed to me by one of my senior officers at that time.

On winning the Olympic medal

My decision to try my hand in Olympics was not taken well by my family, friends and associates. They felt that I had a huge opportunity to rise in my army career and I would become a senior ranking officer. Nevertheless, I was determined that I would try my hand at the Olympics. I was also determined that I should not be only known as an Olympian. Those participating are known as Olympians and get their visiting cards published to show later to others. I was not getting any visiting cards published but I was absolutely committed to the fact that I must bring an Olympic medal back to the country. 

Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore interacting with the aspiring sports students.  

On training for the Olympics

Recalling his winning the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in shooting, Rathore said that when he was preparing for the Olympics his focus was total. From morning to night, it was only about training for the Olympics. His rigid schedule, the food he ate, and the friends he kept, were all focused only on one aspect – participation in the Olympics and winning a medal. And he managed to achieve it. Addressing the students, he said that each one of them has to remain totally focused on their goals and not be distracted. Choose friends wisely, interact with those who send positive vibes and avoid negativity at all costs. Refuse to listen to those who gossip and try to distract you.

On changing fields

If one decides to change his field mid-course, one should do it. It should not discourage one. To give an example, within the army I chose to try my hand in shooting competitions. I failed many times but my goal was clear — that I had to get selected for the Olympics and then win a medal. Later, when I decided to leave the army and join politics, my determination was again that as a public leader and representative of the people I must do my bit for the upliftment of the people. I discharged my duties with full conviction and dedication as a Union Minister and now as an MP for my constituency.

Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore with the National award-winning students in sports.

On the internet and easy access of information

He said that the students are living in amazing times these days when the internet has opened up the entire world. Any information is now available with the click of a button. When I was a student, one had to make efforts to gather information and detailed knowledge about different aspects. However, now it is so readily available and communication has become so easy and efficient.

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Tusharika Singh

Long texts over calls | Food, music and books over people | Chai over everything else | Statutory Warning: Allergic to morons

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