Relatively Speaking

Daddy the game changer

Singapore athlete Vivian Rhamanan (in red) with his wife, Ms Julia Shinozaki, and their children, Tia and Travis. Standing behind are his father, Mr Rhamanan Govindan Kochuvathi, and mother, Mrs Beena Rhamanan.
Singapore athlete Vivian Rhamanan (in red) with his wife, Ms Julia Shinozaki, and their children, Tia and Travis. Standing behind are his father, Mr Rhamanan Govindan Kochuvathi, and mother, Mrs Beena Rhamanan.ST PHOTO: VENESSA LEE

National squash player Vivian Rhamanan was crazy about football as a child, recalls his father, squash coach and ex-national player Rhamanan Govindan Kochuvathi.

When Vivian was 11, Mr Rhamanan discovered that one of the neighbourhood kids who played football with his son was smoking.

He decided to introduce Vivian to squash as an alternative to football.

"I realised that I should change the game, otherwise he might get influenced and start smoking," says

Mr Rhamanan, who used to be a smoker himself, but quit for health reasons. He made Vivian attend training every Saturday at the Chinese Swimming Club, where he was coaching then.

Subsequently, Vivian never picked up smoking and went on to play squash full-time after his N-level examinations at Anderson Secondary School. He got a diploma in business management about six years ago.

"I always aspired to be like my dad, representing Singapore in squash," says Vivian, 29, who is competing in the South-east Asian (SEA) Games here next month.

"However, as you get better, everyone's expectations of you get higher. I felt the pressure was too much. I didn't enjoy squash as much and lost interest for about three years," says Vivian, who is also the national squash team's assistant coach. In 2009, he returned to the sport.

Mr Rhamanan, 64, says: "Being a parent, expectations are high. When he lost a match, I felt upset. I encouraged him to play squash in a harsh, serious way - by giving orders.

"Once he became a good player, though, I left him alone. The national coach was always there to assist him."

Vivian is taking it easy with his two-year-old son, Travis, who picked up a squash racket when he started walking at one.

Says Mr Rhamanan: "As a father, Vivian is trying to encourage his son better than how I motivated him. He's coaching his son in a fun way."

Vivian also has a one-year-old daughter, Tia, with his wife, business development manager Julia Shinozaki, 30. His mother, Mrs Beena Rhamanan, 58, is a customer service officer. Vivian has two older sisters.

What is your parenting style like?

Mrs Rhamanan: I'm more concerned about education. At the beginning, I discouraged Vivian from playing squash. When my husband played for Singapore, I found that I couldn't take the stress of watching him play. I've never watched Vivian play, although I supported him in other ways, such as cooking fried chicken after his matches when he was a teenager. My daughter-in-law is making me watch Vivian play at the SEA Games here.

Mr Rhamanan: I supported my children in whatever they liked to do, but I also wanted them to have a basic education.

What is Vivian like as a parent?

Mrs Rhamanan: He's patient. When I see him changing nappies and helping Julia to feed the children, I'm very happy. My husband was also like that, helping with our children's baths and taking them out.

Vivian: In the morning, I try to send my son to the childcare centre. After training, I rush back before they sleep. It keeps the family together. We try to do fun activities during the weekends. We're members of the zoo and we go to the park.

What was your childhood like, Vivian?

Vivian: Sports was all I could think of. I didn't enjoy studying. I travelled the world because of squash, to places such as Japan, Hong Kong and India. I went to Britain on my own at 14. These are good memories.

Mr Rhamanan: Vivian was born eight years after our second daughter, Velma. He's the only son and has been pampered from young. His sisters - Verona and Velma - also helped to take care of him.

Mrs Rhamanan: He's independent. He saved money on his own to buy a laptop and a camera. He wanted to buy a second-hand car in 2010 and managed to save up to pay the deposit of $10,000.

Which parent was more strict?

Vivian: My mother, where studying was concerned. I'm a rebel. I used to sneak out and go clubbing a lot.

Mrs Rhamanan: I would wake at 2am and call him, asking him where he was. He didn't go astray, but as a parent, I was worried about him. As the mother, I was the strict parent.

Mr Rhamanan: I am quite easygoing. I didn't have much time for the kids until after I retired from the army at 45. When I was working, my wife took care of them.

How were you disciplined as a child?

Vivian: I was scolded or beaten.

Mrs Rhamanan: It was beating with the rotan (Malay for cane), mostly for him to study harder. Sometimes, because he went to play with his friends and didn't come back in time.

Mr Rhamanan: I never caned him. I used my hand to beat him only once, when he was about 14, because he didn't play a match well. I preferred to talk to the children to make them understand.

If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you do differently?

Mrs Rhamanan: There's nothing to change. Vivian's a very easygoing person.

Mr Rhamanan: My father was very strict. He hit me all the time. I told myself I wouldn't do that to my children.

Vivian: I would talk to my kids and engage them, let them have their own interests, make them understand that losing is fine. It's different from how I was brought up, but I also want for my kids the family bonding I had with my parents. We used to travel to India and Malaysia. That was fun.

The 28th South-east Asian Games will be held in Singapore from June 5 to 16.