At seven every morning, 21-year-old Satish Dahiya takes a bus to his workplace at Rajendra Place, where he works as an office assistant and moves files from one table to another for Rs. 4,000 a month. At 7 pm, he comes back to his small, squalid flat at Pitampura’s income tax colony, which he shares with his extended family.
Dahiya seems just another face in the crowd and he prefers it that way.
Dahiya, however, is not just another face in the crowd. He was the man under the garb of ‘Shera’, the mascot of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And on this day exactly two years ago, he was having the time of his life.
Dahiya, the official Shera selected by the Games Organising Committee, would don the 10-kg furry costume to appear in promotional campaigns for the Games. He posed for photo-ops with top politicians, actors, musicians and singers.
He was the darling of the crowd and children and grown ups would clamour to get pictures clicked with him. Dahiya had become Shera and he loved every moment. He hoped the good times would last but they didn’t.
The Games was held without any hitch. But the shoddy work and delays that preceded the event and the allegations of corruption that followed, shrouded the event in controversy.
The man behind the mascot wasn’t left untouched by the row either.
“I was unceremoniously asked to leave 15 days after the Games, along with the rest of the workforce. I had to run from pillar to post to get my last month’s salary,” Dahiya said.
There were three custom-made Shera costumes and Dahiya wished to keep one as a memento but he wasn’t allowed. “I don’t have any certificate, picture or even a T-shirt to prove I was Shera,” says Dahiya.
Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots of the 2012 London Olympics are paid 850 pounds (about R70,550) for each appearance. Dahiya hoped he would continue to play the affable Shera even after the Games. The offers never came.
After the Games, he started looking for another job but his work experience almost made him an untouchable. “My father was seriously ill and wherever I went looking for work, no one called me back after learning I had worked in the Games,” he said. Dahiya now works with a private firm where no one knows about his past. “I don’t want anyone to know that anymore,” he said.
Dahiya was an energetic, chirpy young man two years ago. Today, he looks bitter and disillusioned. “Back then I was interviewed by many news channels and I have grown a goatee so that no one recognizes me now,” he said.