Haryana’s Games heroes are still basking in the fame and fortune their feats have brought them. In fact, even if they had not received cash awards from the state and central governments and sponsors, they would have still ended up several lakhs richer than before — thanks to their proud neighbours. Sisters Geeta and Babita, who won gold and silver respectively in wrestling, were welcomed in their native village Balali in Bhiwani district with garlands of cash. This homecoming gift amounted to around Rs 30 lakh.
“It’s custom that when a wrestler wins an international accomplishment, the villagers give him/her a reception and whatever money they can afford. After the Games, villages not only in Bhiwani but in Rohtak too invited my daughters,” said proud father Mahavir Singh Phoghat. Anita, another Bhiwani wrestler, made a cool R10 lakh when she went home to Dhani Mau. Silver medallist Nirmala Devi, from Ghirai in Hissar, got richer by R6-7 lakh. “It’s great motivation when the entire village stands for you. It gives you a great sense of pride,” she said.
Suman Kundu (bronze) of Kalwan village in Jind district said she would never forget the reception she got.
"Everyone was standing to receive me. Even those who earn less than R100 a day gave me some cash. I can't forget their love and blessings."
It isn't just the women wrestlers who are laughing all the way to the bank. Gold winner Anil Kumar, from Raipur village in Sonepat, got richer by R10 lakh.
Sonepat had yet another reason to splurge when Beijing Olympian Yogeshwar Dutta, who won gold, came home to Bhainswal Kalan. He got R5 lakh. "In Sonepat, a village is known by its wrestlers. Because of the time crunch for the Asian Games, I am not able to visit all the nearby villages but have promised them I will visit after the Asian Games," Dutt said.