Father Williams’ heart beats for India’s poor

March 3rd, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by admin  

Bangalore, March 3 (IANS) Richard Williams, the 66-year-old father of tennis grand slam winners Venus and Serena, yearns to reach out to the under-privileged of India, as they remind him of his past life and their counterparts back home in the US. “Though I heard a lot about India before my first visit, I am moved by what I have seen since we landed here for the WTA Tour event. I plan to come back, hopefully twice, to do something for these people, especially their kids. It is sad to see them struggling.

“Since I am already working for a lot of under-privileged in Florida where we live now, I want to launch a similar programme in India to uplift the poor and give them a better life, better education and better place (house) to live,” Williams told reporters here on the sidelines of a WTA Bangalore Open tennis tournament, where his daughters are competing.

Landing in Bangalore early Sunday as his daughters participate in the $600,000 tier-two tournament this week, Williams couldn’t miss seeing the “darker side of India” even in a cosmopolitan city, touted as silicon hub, while driving from his hotel to the tennis venue and Raj Bhavan in downtown and back.

“When I woke up and left the hotel on a drive, I saw so many poor people living on the sidewalks and about six-seven of them sharing food from a single plate. It is disturbing as it hits you at first sight. It reminds me from where I come from - Compton in southern Los Angeles and California, where many people live in the streets and parking bays.

“But there is a difference. Unlike here, people back home blow their heads off. Thank God, there are no shoot-outs here. Since I lived all my life in ghettoes, I know what it takes to go through such hardship. I want to reach out to the poor to improve their lot. I want to launch a programme for the under-privileged with the help of local (state) governments, Vijay Amritraj (veteran Indian tennis star) and many American firms doing business in India,” Williams said.

Recalling the struggle with poverty and racism in his younger days, Williams said the success of his daughters in tennis gave him an opportunity to travel around the world.

“The face of poverty and the struggle of the underprivileged remind me of Mahatma Gandhi, who did a great job in India and South Africa. He showed the way to reach out to these sections of society. I draw a lot of inspiration from him (Gandhi) and his teachings. He was a role model for even Martin Luther King and so many others working for them (poor) the world over,” Williams noted, admiring a bust of Gandhi in the lawns of Raj Bhavan.

Asked whether he would involve Venus and Serena in his social programme in India, Williams senior said they were already associated with him in such activities back home and were generous in funding his programmes for the underprivileged.

“As both of them are still playing and travel a lot to participate in tournaments throughout the year, they may not involve directly but fully support my cause and even donate to fund the programmes,” he said.

Admitting he did not know much about Indian tennis except the contribution of Amritraj brothers (Vijay and Ashok) and the emergence of Sania Mirza on the women’s circuit, Williams hoped more youngsters (boys and girls) would take to the game in the sub-continent to enjoy and benefit from it in terms of health, wealth and long life.

“There is a need to encourage the sport in India too. I am told cricket, hockey and soccer are quite popular here. To make tennis popular too, stakeholders have to get their act together. Governments, schools, colleges and sport clubs have to facilitate its growth. Large companies and die-hard fans should support the game with funds and sponsorships,” Williams added.

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