Indian sportsperson

'You Know My Name, Not My Story'

Indian sportsperson

I hail from a poor family which falls very low on the social rung. My father used to sell langots (loincloths) for male wrestlers, which my mother sews at our rented house at Gokulpur village in East Delhi. Thus, wrestling was something I grew up with. When I was very young, my father would take me along to watch my brothers wrestle.

I was hooked to the sport from day one. I started watching more bouts. Seeing my interest, at the age of nine, I started learning how to wrestle. Soon I started fighting in dangals started taking on boys with élan. I would pin each one of them to the ground. But the idea of a girl challenging boys at their own game did not go down well with many. My father was constantly criticised for his decision to make me wrestle.

Even my mother and grandparents asked him not to make me fight against boys. They were worried that if I injured myself, no one would marry me. But my father did not pay heed to their constant nagging. He supported me, defying the rest of the world. Maintaining a proper diet and training are vital for a wrestler. For a poor family like mine, it turned out to be a huge burden. In 2015, my mother sold her mangalsutra for my training.

My father had also taken loans from the local moneylenders. The debt piled on and reached Rs 10 lakh! My parents often skipped meals to make sure I could eat well. They were under a lot of stress, but they never let it affect me. However, at the back of my mind, I kept thinking how I could earn money and pay back my parents. Finally, I got a chance to play in a dangal in Punjab, where the prize money was Rs 10 lakh. This was a godsend for me.

I told myself: ‘No matter what, you have to win it. It is not just a dangal, it’s a matter of life and death’. I went out there, gave it my best shot and won! I was ecstatic as tears rolled down my cheeks. I sobbed uncontrollably. The money freed my father from his debts. I now had to buy a mangalsutra for my mother that she had sold for my training. God helps those, who help themselves, I managed to get into another competition — the Asian Championship.

The prize money was Rs 3 Lakh. Once again, I won. And the first thing I did with the money was to buy a mangalsutra for my mother, from the same shop she had sold it to. Even today when I close my eyes, I can feel the warmth of my mother’s arms around me after I got her mangalsutra back. I had assured her that I will do everything to keep her and my father proud and happy. She had hugged me and we had cried holding each other.

From that moment, there has been no looking back. I worked hard on my training. I won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Championship held in Johannesburg in December 2017. And in the same year at Asian Wrestling Championships in Kakran, won a silver medal in the Women’s freestyle 69 kg event. Recently, I won a bronze medal at the women’s freestyle 68 kg event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, beating Taipei’s Chen Wenling on account of technical superiority.

Yes, life has changed a little following my success, but problems still exist. Most of them stem from government’s apathy towards sports-persons belonging to poor families or coming from rural backgrounds. So before complaining about India’s rank in the medal tally at international gaming events, such as the Olympics, or Asian Games, do not forget the struggle Indian sportspersons have to go through. My story is just one example.

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