Ms. Ashwini Puranik is a veteran national level snooker and billiards player. She was the first Lady Player from India who represented country in the World Professional Ladies Snooker Championship Held at Sheffield, UK, in 1999. She has also won the All India Ladies Open Snooker Championship (Bombay Gymkhana) in 1998 and 1999. She has also won the Ladies Snooker State Championship in the years 1991 and 2002, and the Indore Open Ladies Pool Championship in 2000.
VP:- How and when did you start playing snooker?
AP:- I am from Vile Parle in Bombay, which used to be, and still is a centre of cultural and literary activities. After marriage, I shifted to Indore. Initially, I used to get bored at home. So, my husband, who was a state level snooker player, suggested that I should join him at Yeshwant Club. I did not intend to play professionally at that time. I just had the knack for playing the game from the beginning and six months after my son was born, I won my first state championship at Jamshedpur. I received a lot of encouragement and constructive criticism from my husband, which helped me raise the standard of my game. So, from there I went to play my first national at the age of 25 and finished third.
VP – How did it feel to be the first lady player from India, representing the country in the World professional Ladies Snooker Championship?
AP- It was a proud moment for me. It really meant a lot, as I had been playing well and had won the All India Championship in 1998. I lost in the quarterfinals, but it was a great learning experience. In 1999, I played the Ladies Scottish Regal Masters Snooker Championship held at Sterling, Scotland. Although I lost in pre-Quarters in main draw but won the Losers Plate competition.
VP – What is the best part about being a national level snooker player?
AP- It helps you learn many things. With the continuous support of my family, I have been able to grow with the game. It is one of the elitist games in the world, so there is the factor of standing out in the crowd. Also, we get to meet, interact with all top players of the country. There is a very different level of competition in snooker and here is where the age barrier ends. Players like Pankaj Advani, who are young, but who play with such admirable knowledge and grace. Your conduct and the way you carry yourself matters in this game. Also, it requires years of hardship before some output is seen. Geet Sethi (8 times World Billiards Champion), once said that Billiard is a game which needs 10 years of learning, 10 years for understanding and further 10 years for producing result.
VP – How do you manage to balance snooker and family life?
AP- I did not make any special efforts towards this direction. Ours is a joint family and my two children were well taken care of whenever I used to go out for playing championships. My daughter, Aditi, has always been a wise child and she used to look after her younger brother. I always used to find time to play with both of them, despite the games and practice schedules.
VP – We have heard that you have performed classical music on stage and on the All India Radio. What inspires you to excel in two diverse fields?
AP- In essence, the two things are not very different. You need the same energy and dedication for both. So, the work put behind is the same, the output is manifested differently.
VP – What are the changes that you have witnessed in snooker and billiards over in the last decade?
AP- In the ladies-circuit, there has been a change for the better in the approach of players and the reach o the game itself. My coach used to say that you must have a man’s approach to the game. It has been my experience, as a player, that women are more hesitant and unpredictable while playing snooker. If a female player has a lead of 30-40 points, she might get complacent but at the same place, a male player tends to have a killer’s instinct and tries to increase the lead in the next shot. This is undergoing a change and players in the ladies-circuit are competing with more energy and focus. Also, the general standard of the game has gone up.
VP – What is one thing that a person wanting to learn snooker or learning snooker should avoid?
AP- If a person learns the wrong move or a wrong stance, it becomes very difficult to unlearn this wrong practice. Sometimes, it takes years to overcome the handicap. Therefore, it is important that young players should learn the right thing in the first go.
VP – Which is your favourite game apart from snooker?
AP- I used to play a lot of Badminton; I have represented Maharashtra in kho-kho at state level. I was always more interested in extra-curricular activities. I have also participated in opening & closing ceremony of 1982 Delhi Asiad in Delhi & Bombay and attended the Republic day parade in Delhi as Senior under Officer in 1985.
VP – What are your views on today’s youth?
AP- I feel that today’s youth is more dedicated towards whatever they are doing. Their approach is more professional. Whether the field is sports, Bollywood, or modeling, young people today are more organized and tech-savvy. Their strong focus on goals is something that can be learnt.