Shobha Yadav is a middle-aged milkman in Bharathara in Varanasi, living in a hut with his three sons and two daughters. Yadav once used to wrestle in akhadas abounding this village but it’s now the turn of the new generations. But he doesn’t have a clue what sport his youngest son Ram Asre is involved in, nor has he any idea where in the world he will be off to soon.
His village buddies told Yadav that his son is a judoka and was 'videsh' bound but they too had idea just where this teenager was bound to.
Then came Lal Kumar, the 1985 National Games bronze medallist guru of the judokas in Varanasi, to inform Yadav that his young sub-junior and junior national champion son is the only boy from UP, who would be flying to Beirut, in Lebanon, to see the Indian tri-colour flying high at the Third Asian Youth Judo Championship slated for November 12 to 15.
A phone conversation with secretary general of the UP Judo Federation, Munawar Anzar, cleared the picture for the villagers, but Yadav, who doesn’t seem to have got it clear of the discipline involved, said: "Sab malik ki marji hai. Ab Ram Asre par Bharat mata ki kripa ki zaroorat hai, videsh mein ek achcha pehalwan siddh hone ke liye" (Everything depends on the almighty’s wish. Now Ram Asre needs Mother India’s blessings to prove that he is a good wrestler abroad). Interestingly, the 15-year-old shares the name with another Ram Asre, though seven years elder and already the reigning Commonwealth Judo Champion, besides being Asian Senior silver medallist.
Talking to HT over phone from Aurangabad, where the conditioning camp for the Beirut tourney is underway, Asre said: "I will now ensure that I surpass the heights attained by my senior namesake from Bhatti village, neighbouring my village at Varanasi. My next target is to win the gold on international debut at Lebanon."
Asre has emerged from an extremely poor household, with father Yadav rearing two buffaloes and his two brothers working as a driver and a daily wage labourer to eke out a livelihood for the hut-dwelling family.
Said Lal Kumar, coach of the promising judoka, all my pupils are 'gudari ke laal' (from very humble background), but this Asre has something exceptional in him which is rare with Indian judokas.
"Instead of defensive Indian judo style, this boy, who is now part of Saharanpur Sports Hostel and a Class IX student, doesn't give any chance for his opponents to attack, but instead finishes them off with aplomb," said Kumar.
Results speak volumes for this fighter who took to judo from wrestling just two years back. He became National sub-junior judo champion in the plus-50 kg class last year and National junior judo champion in the plus-60 kg class recently at Haridwar.
While Asre will attempt to make his mark in the 60-plus kg class at the Third Asian Youth Judo Championship, reigning Commonwealth champion Garima Chaudhary from Meerut is the sole judoka from UP participating in the 10th Asian Judo Championship, which will be held concurrently in Beirut.