|July 1, 1998||
V J Peter, former Olympian, dead
Former hockey Olympian and Arjuna Award winner V J Peter died in Chennai on Tuesday night after a brief illness.
The 62-year-old is survived by his wife, three daughters, and two sons.
Born on June 19, 1937, Peter, after playing in the city, moved over to Madras Engineering Group (MEG), Bangalore, and represented Mysore in the first nationals in 1954.
He then moved over to Services, where he played and coached the team for nearly two decades.
After his first visit to East AFrica as a member of the Indian team, Peter donned the country's colours in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics.
He was also a member of the Indian team that won the gold in the Bangkok Asian Games.
Prem Panicker adds: My memory of Peter dates back to when I used to live in Madras -- in a place called St Thomas Mount.
Peter lived very close to the station, in the area known as Alandur, while my own home was on the other side, in Adambakkam.
When you go from Adambakkam towards the Guindy area, you pass a municipal school, with an open space attached. Behind that is a chawl, and said space was, during the early hours of the morning, used by the inhabitants of the chawl as a kind of open air lavatory.
When you passed by in the morning, therefore, it was with an air of disgust. And in the evening, with bemusement. For, regular as clockwork, come 3.30 pm and this tall, rangy, swarthy-complexioned gent would land up on a cycle, park it on the other side of the road, and wait for his acolytes to turn up.
Once they were all assembled, the boys, with the gent pitching in, took big brooms in hand and cleaned the ground of both human and animal refuse.
They then marked out the dimensions of half a hockey ground -- and the lessons began.
There was no sponsorship, no hype. The 'students' were local boys from the nearby slums. The hockey sticks and balls were sponsored by Peter himself -- not that he earned all that much.
It was his way of contributing a little something to a game he loved and played with distinction -- by passing on his skills and his knowledge to a new generation of young, eager boys.
He didn't earn much, Peter, if you rate earnings in terms of material goods.
But I'll bet good money there is a gaggle of youngsters at his home today, keeping vigil for a man who, for all his three-time Olympian status, was just 'one of the boys'.
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