Amit Prabhakar and Rupinder Pal Singh will be the new faces in the Indian defence at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.
When HT spoke to him after getting the call, Amit said, “It’s going to be the biggest chance of my life. All eyes, especially my family’s, are on me, and I have to live up to their expectations.”
It isn’t surprising that among the first thoughts on Amit’s mind are his family. His story could have been the script of a Bollywood movie, in fact, it probably has been. But this is no reel life melodrama. It is the very real story of innumerable Indian sportsmen.
In a family headed by his mother, Kusum, 18-year-old Amit is the eldest of four siblings. When he was two, his father began working at the mess at the Guru Govind Singh Sports College, on the outskirts of the city. Since then, the family has been living in a small hut on the college campus.
Amit’s first hockey stick was a gift from one of the college coaches. His father dreamt that Amit would play for India, but today he isn’t around to celebrate. He died of kidney failure last year because the family couldn’t afford a transplant.
Kusum is the sole breadwinner, earning Rs 1500 a month, doing odd jobs at the hostel mess. As a mother, she was worried about her son travelling to Malaysia. “How will he be able to travel in an aircraft? He has never been in an air-conditioned train,” she asked.
But Amit has other things on his mind. After proving his mettle for Air India and representing the country at the South Asian Games, his sights are set on making a name at the senior level.
This is where the story changes tracks. For Amit and his family, the joy and honour of representing the country are countered by some practical considerations. The first question on his mother’s mind has to do with survival. “Will he be earning more money? Will he be able to feed the family and get his sister married? I know he plays well, even though I haven’t seen him. I hope he does his best, because our future depends on his success.”
His brother, Ajay, is proud, saying Amit deserved the spot on the basis of his showing at the South Asian Games, but he too echoes his mother’s words, and knows that sport is the only way out of poverty.
As if the weight of the nation’s expectations weren’t enough, Amit, like many other talented Indian sportsmen, has to shoulder the hopes of a family that has very little else.
For the Prabhakar family, those hopes could well be realised.