Ramit Tandon took 'the risk' of his life last September by leaving a cushiony hedge fund analyst's job in New York to become a full-time squash player, a move that seems to be paying off as he prepares to represent India at upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.
Since that life-changing decision, the 25-year-old Columbia graduate has won two titles on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) tour and jumped more than 400 spots to reach a career-high 62 in the latest world rankings.
Tandon says nothing can beat the honour of playing for India, so, he has no regrets about the 'brave call' less than 12 months ago. However, he does miss the comfort of getting paid by the end of the month, like he used to at the billion dollar hedge fund Birch Grove Capital.
"Yes, I do the miss the stability of a job but it was a call I had to make if I had to play squash full-time and represent India. It is the greatest honour to represent your country. It is still early days but so far so good," the Kolkata-based player said.
Until last September, Tandon was playing an odd PSA event here and there but a permanent job did not allow him to devote enough time to the game. Fortunately, he found the support of his employers.
"Honestly, it was a case of now or never. I could go back to my job even after turning 35 but I would not have been able to play squash at the highest level. My employers understood that and offered to sponsor me. The fact that some of my seniors at work played squash also helped," he said.
He graduated from Columbia University in statistics and worked at the hedge-fund for two years. Most people of his age would be happy with that career graph but Tandon doesn't look in life that way.
"I was earning well for a 25-year-old and if I had worked for another 5-10 years, I would be a rich man. Now my earnings depend solely on how far I reach in a tournament. That is the only negative I can think of," he explained.
"But like I said, I can always go back to it. I will start thinking on those lines only when I am not doing well in squash. The last 12 months have been productive and target is to break into the top-50 by the end of the year," said Tandon, who is considered a 'gifted' player but someone who needs to work on his fitness.
The immediate job at hand is the Asian Games where the men's team will defend the gold it won in Incheon four years ago.
In the company of senior pro and world number 12 Saurav Ghosal, Tandon thinks they can do an encore. The entire contingent will be gathering in Chennai on Friday for a week's camp before jetting off to Jakarta.
"Based on the rankings, I think I will only be part of the team events. Really looking forward to winning some important games for the side. Commonwealth Games was my first time at a multi-sporting event. The feeling of staying at the Games' village was very special. I am sure Asian Games will be another highlight of my career," he added.
He has chosen an unconventional career path but the stock analyst in him will never die.
"I still keep a track of what is happening in the Wall Street. I was happy doing that and now I am happy playing squash," summed up Tandon.