How long before a National Champion emerges out of START? Perhaps 5 years. How long before these students lead the way to coexist? It’s happening now. 

Ritwik Bhattacharya became the first Indian to break into the Top 50 of the PSA World Rankings in 2006 and ranked World No. 38 in 2008. He stopped playing competitive Squash in 2010 and shortly founded START (Squash Temple and Real Training), in Mokashi Village, near Mumbai. 

Several dimensions of this mission are synergized. 

START is a talent nurturer and makes an “elite” sport free and accessible to the nearby tribal children. With over 150 children today (including students from Mumbai), Ritwik’s commitment is reciprocated by rugged and eager children, a remarkable number of them are now rising stars in the Junior Nationals circuit and Nationals. 

The natural setting in Mokashi also offers plenty to balance intense training with yoga, swimming and hiking in the Western Ghats. 

The love for the sport binds the children coming from very different life experiences. Competitive spirit on-court is balanced by an inclusion mindset off-c

ourt. The tribal kids introduce the city kids to the joys of finding frogs, scorpions or leaping headlong into a lake after a day of hard practice. In return, the city kids help their tribal friends navigate the ropes of the world, whether it’s travelling on a plane for the first time to a tournament, or easing social nerves in esteemed sports clubs. 

START reminds us of Margaret Mead’s words – ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Thank you to Ritwik, for these glimpses of progress in action! 

Contributed by: Ritwik Bhattacharya | Location: Mokashi, Maharashtra

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