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Tennis adds flavor to Indian trio’s friendship

September 24, 2011 04:15 PM
Three Indian-born men are competing for the Middle States 2.5 men's team.
Three Indian-born men are competing for the Middle States 2.5 men's team.
By John Freeman, special to USTA.com

Rancho Mirage, California –-
Some three years ago, three Indian-born computer software engineers of about the same age took executive jobs in the small Pennsylvania hamlet of Camp Hill, located just outside Harrisburg.

They were a long way from home.

Though they worked for different companies, they resided in the same apartment complex and belonged to the same tennis club. Their shared ethnic background – and love of tennis – soon led them to become the best of friends.

This weekend, they’re competing on the Middle States 2.5 Men’s team in the USTA League National Championships held at the Mission Hill Country Club.

For Ravi Kiran Yaragaria, 39; Pankaj Datta, 39; and Vaneet Kumar, 38, it’s an experience they never could’ve imagined when they were youngsters.

"Tennis adds so much flavor to our friendship," said Vaneet, to which Ravi adds: "We wouldn’t be nearly as close if we didn’t play tennis together."

Each player hails from a different region of India, where various and distinctly different dialects of their native tongue are spoken.

"In my state, there are three different dialects," said Pankaj. "So I’d say about 20 percent of the time, I have no idea what they’re talking about."

Curiously, all three players had dreams of playing competitive tennis while in growing up in India, but several factors worked against them.

"For one thing, there are very few courts available for every-day people," said Ravi. "The only ones we have are exclusively for the wealthy."

There was another, equally compelling factor: Growing up, they were forced to concentrate almost exclusively on their academics.

"I didn’t have much time to play tennis or any other sport, even cricket," said Pankaj, "because my dad said to me at an early age, ‘You’re going to be an engineer.’ Turned out he was right. That’s why I’m here (in the U.S.). Now I play as much as I want."

Speaking of fathers, Ravi says his own father (who goes by the lengthy name of Madhusudana Rao) is rightly proud of his son’s tennis exploits in a land far away but instantly at his fingertips via computer.

"My dad always goes on the USTA website to read about our team, especially when we won the Sectionals," he said. "Now he’ll read this story about us, that we’re here playing for a national championship. I know he’ll be very, very proud."


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