In conversation with: Trishla Singh

Trishla Singh, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur, is a champion swimmer having a record of 4 gold medals each in three consecutive Inter IIT meets (2004-2006). She had a proficient academic career in psychology spanning over a decade and currently works at Accenture. Vox Populi got an opportunity to interact with her during her visit to IIT Kanpur as the Guest of Honour for the 32nd Inter IIT Aquatics Meet.


 

Vox: Vox Populi would like to welcome you on behalf of the campus community to the 32nd Inter IIT Aquatics Meet!

First off, how does it feel coming back to the campus and being a part of yet another Inter IIT Aquatics meet – this time leading not only IIT Kanpur – but all the participating contingents as the Guest of Honour?

Ms. Trishla: I feel really good to be back almost after a decade, because the campus still seems very familiar – I see familiar faculty, familiar faces, all of which bring back many cherished memories. At the same time, the campus has changed a lot, especially in terms of the sports facilities and opportunities here – they are truly remarkable, and far better than what any of the IITs had in my time. As for Aquatics Meet, it feels great to finally be able to watch the events without the stress of having to do a 100-metre event and win a medal in it (laughs).

Vox: When you reminisce about your days in the campus, who are the people you remember as being an integral part of your sports innings? Could you share some of your memories associated with them?

Ms. Trishla: One of the people whom I’ll never forget is Mr Vadi, our swimming coach. He was a person who used to follow a very strict discipline. One of the memories I have with him is that, he used to send back the students who came even five minutes late to the pool without allowing them to swim! This was the first time I saw such a strict discipline being followed as this hadn’t been the case with any other coach that I’ve trained with.

I also have fond memories associated with Mr Venkateshan. He was a very familiar and encouraging face for me, and he was the one person whom you could find at each and every sport facility when you needed him. Also he was the person who led to the inclusion of girls’ swimming events in Inter IIT Aquatics Meet!

And then there was Mishra sir who used to train us in basic athletics. All of them were very action oriented people: they weren’t the people who spoke to much, but if you are interested in a sport and require some help from their side, they would leave no stone unturned.

Vox: We’ve come to know that your career in swimming began quite early, from 3 medals in the Junior National Championship in 1992 to 4 medals in the 2005 Inter-IIT aquatics meet. So where did it begin? Who introduced you to the sport and when?
Ms. Trishla: Well, both my parents were in the hotel business, and my father being the General Manager, we would stay in the hotel he worked in. Hence, the hotel pool was a facility I always had access to, and that was where my sisters and I learned how to swim. My first coach was my mother. Later on, as our interest and skill developed, we were formally trained in the sport.

Vox: Apart from your glamorous medal tally in aquatics, you have been a consistent performer in academics and were a part of the Counselling Service and Dramatics society as well. We would like to know how did you manage to devote time to so many things and do them with such level of proficiency?
Ms. Trishla: This was primarily because I had never been to an institute that offered so many opportunities at one single place. What I had experienced in the colleges I had been, was that they had academics in the campus, but then you had to go to different facilities for your other interests like sports, theatre, dance etc. Since I could do lot of other things that I wanted to do her in the campus, those were the best times of my life. Moreover, if you really want to do something, you’ll surely find time to get on with it.

 Vox: We’ve also read that you’ve studied psychology since your Bachelor’s degree, with an emphasis on cognitive sciences. Did your acquaintance with this field help you with your sports career, where the mind has as a great a role to play as the body?
Ms. Trishla: Well, one thing that did help was a  trick we learnt while studying competitive psychology. We were taught to visualize an event before it actually happened, so as to mentally prepare ourselves for what was to come. Once we were mentally prepared, our bodies prepared themselves automatically.

Vox: And what about the converse? What lessons have sports taught you, that have proven relevant even in your corporate career?
Ms. Trishla: Well, I believe that a great takeaway from sports for me has been that it taught me to work hard and consistently, so as to eventually achieve your goal in small steps. I am not the kind of person to study all night before an examination, simply because I would never do something similar in sports. Leaving something for the last minute simply drives me crazy; I prefer to approach all my tasks systematically, and enjoy the little steps that lead me to my goal.

Vox: We have an interesting excerpt from your personal life : After the sad demise of your father, you were made the head of the family – or given the ‘pagdi’, this was also the first case in the state of Rajasthan where women organised the ‘pagdi’ ceremony. This was something very ahead of times and an example of very progressive outlook. What kind of upbringing by your parents instilled such strong values in you? What should be the major takeaway for the young readers from this incident of your life?
Ms. Trishla: I had two younger sisters but no brothers. It was due to this fact that we never knew how girls were treated differently from boys in a family. We always did what we wanted to, whether it was sports academics or anything else, as long as it was logical and ethically correct. So this was how it went by our family values, there were no other filters applied on whatever we wanted to do. My father used to encourage us in sports and he never pressurized us to get into academics and phrases like ‘girls should do this’ and ‘girls should not do this’ were never a part of our upbringing.

So when it came to the situation of performing his last rites, the most logical thing was – that since it was something very personal, someone from the family had to do it. Because I was the eldest, I performed the last rites, only to realise later that women are not supposed to perform them. Also a major influence to such outlook was that I was brought up in Goa where there is no apparent gender discrimination in terms of marking things which boys are supposed to do and what girls are.

A major takeaway from this should be that at one point, a person needs to question things in the society. Why are we studying so much ? What’s the use of tickling our brains that much if we are going to blindly follow the customs that have been told to us.

Vox: It has been over a decade since you started your corporate innings – are you still able to devote time to the sports, especially swimming, considering the busy professional life that you lead?
Ms. Trishla: Well, I haven’t been able to continue with swimming as much as I’d like, because of the difficulty in obtaining swimming slots in the city. Yet I still do take out time for sports – I’m currently training to run half-marathons, and run at least three days a week. I’m also fortunate to be situated near Pondicherry, where I regularly go surfing. I would also like to compete in a half ironman run ( a triathlon event ) in the next year.

Infact sports are always going to be an integral part of my life, I can’t imagine myself devoting all my time to academics or my corporate career. And sports is something you get addicted to, it is such a mood elevator, it relaxes you and makes you feel so good about yourself.

Vox: Finally, what would be your message to the contingent from IIT Kanpur  who are going to contest for the title from their home arena this time ?
Ms. Trishla: All I would like to say is – “Guys, just go for it ! . You have been prepared well and I have heard from your coaches that there have been summer camps and training sessions, further you have so many experienced people who have maintained a fantastic winning streak all these years.  So it is all out there, just put your best foot forward and grab it. Wish you all the very best for the meet.”

Interviewed by Mayank Chauhan and Shashank Gupta