Maharashtra makes a virtual sweep of Padma awards

Mumbai: With a total of 10 out of 11 coveted Padma awards going to nominees from Maharashtra, including one posthumously, the state has bagged the lion’s share of the country’s highest civilian awards in 2018.

The awards were announced late on Thursday on the eve of the 69th Republic Day.

The sole Padma Vibhushan awardee — the second highest civilian award — from the state is eminent classical singer Ghulam Mustafa Khan, while sitar maestro Arvind Parikh has been honoured with a Padma Bhushan — the third highest civilian award, both in the Arts/Music category.

The country’s fourth highest award — the Padma Shri — has gone to the legendary doctor couple Abhay Bang and Rani A. Bang, both of whom have been conferred the award in the category of medicine.

Arvind Gupta has been honoured for his contribution to academics and literature, actor Manoj Joshi for Arts/Acting, and industrialist Rameshwarlal Kabra for notable contributions in Trade/Industry.

Actor Sisir Purushottam Mishra has been awarded a Padma Shri for Arts/Cinema, paraplegic swimmer Murlikant Petkar for Sports/Swimming and Dalit writer Panatawane Gangadhar for Literature.

A self-taught medical and social worker, Sampat Ramteke, who passed away in 2017, has been conferred the Padma Shri posthumously.

Cue sports legend Pankaj Advani has finally got his due after being ignored for Padma Bhushan the previous two years. It is a case of better late than never though for the 18-time world champion, who says he has no hard feelings against the government.

His achievements are well documented but it is still worth mentioning that he is getting better with age and has won seven world titles in the last four years.

So, is he too emulating his idol Roger Federer?

“Well I am still 32 and not old. But, yes, I realise I am not young either. I am just excited that good things are happening at this stage of my career,” Advani told PTI after adding another feather to his illustrious cap in the form of India’s third highest civilian honour.

Advani was a 16-time world champion when he was ignored for Padma Bhushan for the second time, leaving him wondering “what more” he needed to do.

Twelve months later, Advani has thanked the government for bestowing the honour.

“I know what I said last year,” said Advani when reminded about his controversial statement last year.

“This year I was not even thinking about. I was actually at a club in Bangalore, out for dinner with my friends when I got the call last night. After a point, I realised if it comes it comes, if it doesn’t it will come next year.

“I don’t play for awards. Even last year, after I said what I said, it was definitely not the end of the world for me. Now that I have got it, it is hugely exciting and motivating,” he said.

It is remarkable that Advani still has the zeal and motivation to keep going, 12 years after he won India’s highest sporting honour, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. He was just 20 back then.

What is left now? Padma Vibhushan or even a Bharat Ratna besides the world titles he keeps churning out year after year?

“Well there has to be a five-year gap between each Padma awards so it is a long shot. God knows where I will be five years later, you are not even sure what is going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

“Having said that, it [getting a Padma Vibhushan or Bharat Ratna] all depends on perception of sport in our country. If we are willing to accept achievers from across disciplines, only time will tell.

“For now I am enjoying this moment. It is not only my glory, it is glory for the entire cue sports fraternity,” said Advani.

His achievements are mind-boggling and what makes them even greater is the fact that they have come simultaneously in billiards and snooker.

Last November in Doha, he switched from billiards to snooker within days and still ended up winning world titles in either category.

Advani, who potted his maiden world title in 2005, picked 2014, 2015 and 2017 as the stand out years of his phenomenal career.

He has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan alongside MS Dhoni, a cricketer he admires the most.

Will the award give him the extra dose of motivation, Advani said: “It is definitely motivating to continue pursuing excellence in billiards and snooker. To keep improving. It is surely a great start to the year.”

None of his 18 world titles would have been possible without the support of coach Arvind Savur and brother Shree Advani, who is a well-known mind coach.

“Sport is not just about skill, technique and hard work. It is also about understanding your emotions, how to approach the game. There is hardly anything that separates the best from the rest.

“Shree has helped me immensely on the mental aspect and of course my coach Arvind Savur,” added Advani.

The Padma Awards are given in various disciplines, fields like arts, social work, public afairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil services, etc.

The Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished services, the Padma Bhushan for distinguished service of high order and the Padma Shri for distinguished service in any field.

The Bharat Ratna is the country’s highest civilian award, is conferred only occasionally.

This year, of a total 85 selected for various awards, three have bagged the Padma Vibhushan, nine the Padma Bhushan and 73 Padma Shri, including 14 women, 16 foreigners and three posthumously.

The awards are conferred by the President at a ceremonial function held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, usually around March-April.

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