The Optimist Citizen

From a slum to the Captain of the Indian National Basketball Team (Jr)


One day when one of our TOC reporters brought a young athletic tanned guy in his early twenties to the TOC office, we all thought of taking a small break, and hear him out. What can be so inspiring about this guy, who was almost our age, and looked from a very humble background. But as the shy face started speaking, our eyes opened wider with each word.

Son of a Class IV employee of Nagar Nigam, Amit Kanarjee was the youngest in a family of 7. Living in a slum colony within BHEL Bhopal Township, his mother cooked meals in nearby houses of BHEL employees. But unlike other slum kids, Amit used to go to AGA club nearby every evening, to watch children of BHEL employees play basketball. Picking up balls going out of the court, he too tried playing like them, before throwing the balls back. One day some coaches spotted him and called him in. As they taught him the basics, Amit showed appetite for more. The coaches helped arrange the first kit and a pair of shoes for him, but with a condition. They got him enrolled in a nearby school, and threatened to stop coaching him, if he left studies. It was difficult initially, when after a rigorous basketball session, there was hardly any energy left to attend school. But Amit did not complain or quit.

Amit Kanarjee playing at an International Match
Amit Kanarjee playing at an International Match

“With my parents already working enough to arrange 2 square meals a day, I could not ask for more. Rather, I felt like doing something worth to improve our condition”, says Amit. It was only in 2005, when he participated in school state basketball championship in Jabalpur that he started believing in himself, and in his ability to do something worthwhile. Till the age of 12, Amit had seen many players and coaches, but it was Riyazuddin (well-known basketball player) and Mr Mukhtiar singh (renowned chief coach of Indian basketball team) who left a deep impression on him. “I started fantasising about being coached by Mukhtiar sir. Whenever I saw him coaching, I would feel that YES! This is what real coaching is like”, says Amit. In 2009 when he went to Mukhtiar sir for trials, he got rejected. Because of his arrogance, he even got rejected from the Indian national team selection. When things did not work well, Amit got into disreputable activities. But his coach A.Suresh rebuked and reprimanded him at the right time, to return him back to the game. Amit practiced hard enough, to get his team a gold, in the state championship that year. Result, he even got selected for the Indian national team camp and his desire of being coached by Mukhtiar sir got fulfilled.

His happiness knew no bounds, but was short lived, when one day while he was in the national camp; he got the news about the demolition of B.H.E.L slums. Many were rendered homeless, including his family. His coach Suresh sir went out of the way to help Amit’s family stay in his house, till a new place was allotted. As things started falling into place, a new problem erupted. Since Amit was selected for the Indian national team, it became mandatory to possess a passport. But his passport application got rejected, as he had no verifiable address. His house was a flattened barren land now. Although Amit had lost all hopes of representing India, his coaches did not. They discussed the matter with higher authorities, and soon his dream to play for India came true. These incidents made Amit more loyal towards the sport, as he knew he had a slim chance to prove himself, worth to his coaches.

Once when attending a national camp, after he got selected for the Indian junior national team, Amit immediately called up Mukhtiar sir to inform him about his selection. But to his surprise, instead of congratulating him for the selection, Mukhtiar sir asked him whether the Captain’s name had been declared too. The same day in the evening, when Amit was declared the Captain of the Indian team, he could not believe his ears. “Even before informing my family or friends, the first thing I did was to phone Mukhtiar sir. I feel that I was blessed to have such distinguished coaches like Mukhtiar sir and Suresh sir in my life. Had they not been there, I would not have achieved so much.” Amit says, as he recalls his entire journey, filled with gratitude for the coaches.

When asked, what his major career achievement till date was,

Amit says: “First captaining the national junior basketball team and second getting selected for the Asian camp in Tokyo, where only 2 players from India were sent”.

Life never ceases to amaze and neither do youth like Amit Kanarjee. Born and brought up in slums, who knew this carefree little kid, would one day grow up to, be the Captain of the Indian National Basketball team (Junior). At a young age of 15 when most of us are clueless about our career and future plans, Amit represented India in Asian Basketball championship in Macau, China. Despite poor financial conditions and repeated rejections from the national team selection committee, this hoopster never chose to stop. His undisputed determination, dauntless courage and unparalleled desire to succeed, took him to levels aspired by many. Today as this 22 year old aspires to become the Captain of Indian National Basketball team (Senior), he continues to inspire many on and off the field, with his determination, aggression, and sheer optimism. He is a True Optimist Citizen.


Written by : Gurvinder Kaur | TOC      &    Compiled By : Nikhil Sharma | TOC


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