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Emil thankful for India connect

other Updated: Sep 03, 2010 23:15 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times

Between his childhood in war-torn Iran and current search for opportunities in Australia, Emil Vartazarian spent 20 years in India, which made him the man he is. That and rugby, in which he represented his adopted country without ever holding an Indian passport.

Vartazarian came here from Tehran in 1987 when he was 10, as many Armenians do. They come to study at the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy of Calcutta.

"It's not a choice. We are sent," said Vartazarian, who is 5ft 6inches, fair with clean features. "When I came the Iran-Iraq war was on. For parents, it was a choice between sending your children far away but keeping them safe or seeing them get killed."

Life in a new country was tough, school was strict. The boys found rugby, an integral part of life at Armenian College. Vartazarian was also good enough at footbhall to play for Bengal-Mumbai FC and Mohammedan Sporting in 2001, after graduating in film studies from St Xavier's College.

But rugby was his first love and he played for India from 1998 to 2006 as the country took baby steps on the world stage. "The rules of the International Rugby Board (IRB) allow people to represent countries where they have been residing for three years or more."

Vartazarian was keen to become a naturalised Indian and applied in 2002 after completing the mandatory 14 years, but failed for want of documentation.

In the past two years, Vartazarian has completed a master's course in sports management in Australia. He's also got married to Chennai girl Thuthi Manohar and can re-apply for Indian citizenship if he stays married for seven years. "When you marry someone you expect to spend the rest of your life with her," said Vartazarian. "Eventually I want to come back here." What do you mean by "here"? "India, definitely India," Vartazarian said.