Since then there has been an incessant flow of visitors at her house in Charhata, 25 km from Beed. She doesn’t have enough firewood to keep the chulha burning to serve tea to the guests, so she gestures to a girl to go borrow some from the neighbours. Ashrabai is the 45-year-old mother of Navnath Faratade, the latest shooting star of Indian sport. The 20-year-old son of farm labourers from this village won the 10m Air Rifle gold medal in the junior category of the World Shooting Championships in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Ashrabai may not have been able to spend a single rupee on her son’s training when he started out in 1999, but she cannot imagine her guests leaving her house without a cuppa. She does not even know what the whole commotion is all about except that it is something to do with her son’s achievement — in what exactly, academics or sports, she does not know.
“What will an illiterate woman like me tell you about it?” she asks. Ashrabai should have been at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport on Saturday, when Navnath, gold medal around his neck, signed his first autograph and members of the shooting fraternity stepped ahead to welcome their hero. “This is the first autograph of my life,” Navnath told HT. “I never thought somebody would ask me for one. Not even after I won the gold. It feels great. Now all I want to do is visit my parents. They are waiting for me.”
Navnath’s father Bhanudas, sitting in the nearby fields, knows his son is on course for a better life. “He kept meeting helpful people at every turn of his life,” he says, hastily adding that not all the boys in his village who came across similar opportunities made the best of them.
It’s been a year-and-a-half since the family last saw Navnath since he’s been busy training at the Krida Prabodhini Centre in Kolhapur. At home, he would sit gazing into eternity. No one dared disturb him. He didn’t seem worried but he was preoccupied. “Stay calm Aai, you worry too much. The future looks good,” he had said. Now, wasn’t he bang on target?