Wrestling coach Mahavir Singh Phogat, whose life the Aamir Khan starrer Dangal depicted, was recently in the news for his strong objections to social media comments ‘hardly literate’ wrestlers.
It was sparked after Virender Sehwag, and wrestlers Yogeshwar Dutt, Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat’s comments, that allegedly targeted Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur, drew angry reactions from many platforms. Leading their criticism was Javed Akhtar, who called them ‘hardly literate’.
“If a hardly literate player or a wrestler troll a pacifist daughter of a martyr it’s understandable but whats wrong with some educated folks,” Akhtar wrote on Twitter.
If a hardly literate player or a wrestler troll a pacifist daughter of a martyr its understandable but whats wrong with some educated folks— Javed Akhtar (@Javedakhtarjadu) February 28, 2017
Phogat posted an emotional reply to Akhtar’s accusations. “Yaha Umr bit gayi desh ko medal dilane mein, aur woh ek pal nahin lagate unpadh batane mein (Spent life-time winning medals for country, and they didn’t take a moment to call us illiterate),” Phogat wrote on Twitter, tagging Akhtar in the post.
Incidentally, Mahavir Phogat used to be a decent student in school and it was for wrestling that education had taken a back seat.
Till class five, Mahavir was a meritorious student and even got a scholarship on the basis of his results.
“I don’t remember the exact amount, but it (scholarship money for academics) was not more than ₹51. May be ₹31! But it was enough to take care of five to six months of pocket money at that time,” recalls Mahavir.
Mahavir’s friends and former classmate KC Sharma, who is currently working with Haryana sports department, says: “The best thing I liked about him (Mahavir) during school days, and for which I admire him even today, is that he always believes in hard work and never runs after the shortcuts.
“He used to enjoy the preferential treatment (because of his sporting excellence) he received from teachers... but in the exams, despite knowing that he would fail, he never cheated. You know, cheating wasn’t that big a deal at the time, especially in a government school! He could have easily passed the Class X board exams had he chosen the route. But he used to say that it was better to fail than to cheat.”
Later when Mahavir took the role of a coach and introduced his daughters to wrestling, he decided to move the children to government school from the private school they were studying earlier, so that they can concentrate more on the sport.
“Training sometimes affected our punctuality at school. Besides, we were unable to cope with studies after training. We started sleeping in class and feeling disoriented, and would often be reprimanded by our teachers.
“Realising that a government schools have more relaxed schedule than private ones, Tauji decided to change our schools,” said Mahavir’s nephew Rahul Phogat. “Our teachers there didn’t make punctuality an issue, so we were able to concentrate more on wrestling.”
“I believed in the significance of education, but wrestling was my top priority. I never wanted the children to be burdened with homework, as that would affect their performance in the pit,” said Mahavir.