Sushil Kumar's father Diwan Singh with his family. HT/Sonu Mehta
The sanctum sanctorum had been invaded and there were few signs of a retreat.
The cramped bedroom was bursting at its seams, yet the overzealous residents of Village Baprola refused to relent. The purpose was to inch closer to the television set, and even a fleeting glimpse was enough to trigger a throaty roar.
Surrounded by sweaty bodies, breathing had become a laborious exercise, but for Diwan Singh and Kamla Devi, the humidity and invasion of privacy meant little. What mattered at that moment was whether their illustrious son would land the country's maiden gold.
The start of the final was greeted by rapturous applause, which seeped out to the gate. The conditions outside were pitiable, made worse by the overnight rain, but it did little to dampen spirits. A pair of enthusiastic hands was making the Tricolour flutter merrily in the slight breeze. The resounding cheer sent the man into a frenzy.
As the seconds ticked by and Sushil Kumar's opponent got a measure of him, silence descended on the room. Diwan Singh was sure his son would return with gold. Leaving the occupants to analyse the bout, he left the room. On another day, he would have gone to the terrace to ruminate, but Sunday did not afford him that opportunity.
After quick gulps of water and a wipe of the face, he settled into the ornate sofa to face the blinding glare of flash bulbs. The trappings of prosperity — the intricate chandelier, ornate furniture and garish pink patterns on the walls — four years down Beijing were evident. Surveying these and the prominently-placed picture of Sushil receiving the Arjuna Award, he began, “We are privileged. Change is a way of life and Sushil has witnessed many so far.”
The sombre look signalled that he was holding something back. A query took the lid off. “Missing out on gold means there were shortcomings in his practice. Sushil lost out because he did not have quality training partners. No one wants to train with a good wrestler, and this happens only in India," thundered the former grappler.