Though born in Chennai, Muzhappilangad,a beach land in Kannur known for its pristine nature and warm neighbourhood became the haven of Ajit’s early childhood.
At age 4, he picked up the badminton racquet and till date it has travelled along with him. The influence of his parents, widely respected sportspersons IndeeraDevi and Suresh Kumar and that of a close-knit family that stood by him, sharpened Ajit’s desire to pursue Badminton. For any, their routine would seem a monumental task but hardships were never a deterrent to the pursuit of their goals. Ajit’s parents would finish their work at FCI (Food Corporation of India) in Muzhappilangad and travel to Thalasseryto pick him up from his school where he received permission to skip a period to attend training with his parents. The trio would then head to Kannur to the humble single court where Ajit began his sporting journey as a toddler. On some days of torrential monsoon rains, the boy was carried by the parents on their shoulders while one of them held the umbrella to shelter each other. A physically tired Ajit was never tired emotionally and he would cry with his four year old heart if he doesn’t get a chance to play that day. He would eventually convince the other players to give him a knock before he left with his parents for home in a local private transport, sleeping across their laps. (Ajit vividly remembers even the name of the bus!) He used to befriend the driver, sit near the driver’s seat and his competitive streak would be such that he would egg them on to beat the other buses on the way.
In the single cement court in the northern district of Kerala, Kannur, Ajit started weaving his International dreams. His parents never doubted if the dream was too big for the young boy from the tiny town, instead they fed him with stories of the greatest in the world at the time, PrakashPadukone. His vision was only getting larger with the inspiration from the tales of Padukone, one of the greatest sportsmen India has ever created. From Muzhappilangad, the family moved to Kannur town for bringing some ease to the strenuous routine.
The atmosphere of Badminton in Kannur at the time was in a high, having produced a state champion who was his mother herself. Guided by his father, a much revered figure, a National athlete heading FCI Sports all over India, Ajit continued to have a disciplined life in both sports and studies, his values shaping into a culture of discipline and excellence. At summer camps, he ran like a puppy around the senior players including his aunt Jaisri(his favourite aunt who went on to become a National Hockey Player and a reputed lawyer) and finished the day happily with the boiled egg and milk from the camp. (A love which he still holds on to!). At 8, he travelled for tournaments with Ranjith, a school senior and an elder brother and slept on class room benches in the nights. Between some tournaments, he also slept on Ranji’s lap, taking the much needed rest amidst the rigorous schedule. Their deep bonding and brotherhood still continues today. (Ranjith is a reputed Dentist and musician now)
Ajit entered the Kannur DistrictUnder 15 team at the tender age of 9 by reaching finals of the Boys Singles District Championships showing his tremendous potential as a Singles player. He also went on to play in the Kerala State Championships representing Kannur in Singles and in Doubles partnering Ranjith. His performance not just in Singles but doubles was proving to be rare talent combination.
During those days, he walked from Makkaani, where his home was, to the badminton court at least 3 kms away, enjoying the surroundings and his favourite bun, butter and jam on-route, a delightful memory which he treasures dearly. Eventually, his parents made the bold and heart wrenching move to Bangalore for good, uprooting themselves from their beloved Kannur, in the hope to make their son a champion under PrakashPadukone, who around the same time returned to India from Denmark after the peak of his International Badminton. The decision was the combination of the hope of a future with the child showing great badminton talent and the immense courage of two parents who believed in their son and themselves.
Ajit started his second journey, literally and metaphorically, from one end of Bangalore to the other, Indira Nagar to Canara Union in Malleshwaram where he played. St Joseph’s school supported their student’s illustrious achievements. Finally, the prodigy was introduced in action to Padukone by providence. The lanky boy with spectacles who beat the defending champion, SandeshChouta, a senior, at the Century Club Tournament caught the Former World No. One’s eyes.
There began his dream tutelage under Padukone. Early morning rigour in Bangalore winters under RoshanLal at IISC Grounds, Yeshwantpur, an organized training camp under Kirloskar and back to Canara Union, Ajit was subjected to quality training. His dream was to play singles for India and to perform at the highest levels in International Badminton, emulating his idol, the Legendary PrakashPadukone.
In Karnataka, the fierce rivalry with Sandesh in Singles blossomed into an endearing friendship and a fruitful partnership in Doubles, whereby they won the Junior and Senior State Championships when Ajit was only sixteen.
Padukone started playing at the Canara Union and started directly coaching Ajit. There started his rise as a Singles Champion gradually fulfilling the early potential winning National titles and becoming the top junior Singles Player in India.
Simultaneously, a formidable partnership began with Deepak Amarnath, his childhood friend from Kannur, with who he created one of the most dominant doubles reign in the Indian Junior Scene, being a much feared pair in the National Badminton circuit at their age, winning every title without losing a single match over two years including winning the Under 22 National Title.
Though faced with multitudinous injuries, a near death typhoid attack, a career threatening leg injury, death of his beloved father, Ajit cruised past all the challenges gracefully like a champion. He rose to the echelons of Indian Badminton from the smallest of courts, to being the India No. 1 in Junior Singles and Doubles, Indian No.2 in Senior Singles and Senior Doubles, representing the Indian Tricolour with the Indian Official Team in International Prestigious Tournaments like Asian Badminton Championships, Asian Team Championships, All England, Thomas Cupetc. Ajit was one of the very few who officially played for India, simultaneously in Singles and Doubles which lead to his achievements in the International and National Scene being recognized by the State of Karnataka, his new homeland, by conferring their highest sporting honour, The Eklavya Award!
His passion for Badminton remains undiminished leading his immediate switch from a player to coach after a rewarding playing career. Ajit founded and runs a Badminton school with his doubles partner for India, Jose George, “Ajit Jose School of Badminton” in Trivandrum, Kerala, honing young aspirants to rise to the top of Indian and World Badminton. He also heads a centre in Palakkad, Kerala developing grass root talents and helping them dream and work towards National and International laurels.
The story of the 4 year old boy from the small town of Kannur still continues; the story of how he dared to dream of representing India in the World stage and fulfilled it by sheer persistence,undying fighting spirit, unconditional love and passion for his beloved sport without ever giving up in the face of soul-crushing even fatal obstacles.
He now dreams and awaits young passionate minds to guide them to the heights of Indian and World Sport!