Transforming a weakness into a strength is tough. But if achieved, the rewards can be enormous. The best example to that theory is Dalip Singh Rana or Dilbu a.k.a The Great Khali.
I first saw him in the early 90s in Rohru, 120 km from Shimla. I was strolling purposelessly down the road with two of my friends, when something caught my attention: a head, an expressionless bony face over and above the sea of humanity and vehicles. Moments later, I could see the shoulders supporting the head and then I was looking up to a ‘macro’-youngster crossing by. Dumbstruck, I forced my friends to take a U-turn.
Walking behind Dilbu — as he was called then — I scanned the giant closely. He was about 7.5 feet tall and nearly third of that wide from one shoulder to the other. His hands resembled that of a wicket-keeper with gloves and his feet were like loaves of bread. The staples on his slippers were stretched to capacity.
An hour later, I saw the giant loading sacks of grain onto a bus roof. He was lifting 50-kg-plus sacks and stretching his arms to let three men get on top of the bus to hold the sacks from the other end.
About six months later, I saw the giant again in Shimla. He was sitting outside a shop dealing in bedweat. This time he looked well off. He was in jeans and leather sandals. Later, I came to know that the shopowner had employed him to attract customers.
Dilbu would do the work of four people singlehandedly in a day using a 4 kg iron bar as a chisel and a 12 kg hammer as a mallet to break rocks into stones for houses or walls. Getting shoes of the right size for him was near impossible. He once asked a cobbler to mend a pair of sandals for him. The job was done well and Dilbu offered the cobbler Rs 50, which the latter refused — saying he had used Rs 300 worth leather.
The third time I saw him was, like the rest of you, on the TV screen, flexing his muscles, now famous as The Great Khali. He was out of reach then and even more so now.