Is Sushil Kumar the closest we can get to a desi superhero? Everything about his life — his early struggle, the legend of his triumphs on the field and his conduct away from the akhara — lives up to tales of heroism we have heard.
From the legend of Bhima to the ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ model of happy families popularised by the Barjatyas, Sushil reminds us of many Indian virtues we hold so close to our heart.
CWG day 6: Sushil, Vinesh, Amit win gold, India bag 8 medals
The mythical Mahabali
Indian mythology tells us the halo of heroism was reserved for those who were ‘Mahabali’ on the battlefield.
Though there were great archers like Arjuna and Karna for competition, the juiciest tales of man-vs-man fight were spun around those who could make the enemy taste the mud of akhara — Bhima, Duryodhana, Jarasandha and Mahavir Hanuman — men and god who had the strength of a thousand elephants.
If mythology were to be rewritten again, Sushil would be the sole claimant to the title of the Mahabali (the most powerful).
The description of a man with arms like boulders, thighs like pillars and the heart of a lion — words used often in childhood tales to describe Bhima or some of his foes — conjures just one image, that of Sushil.
A family that wrestles together wins the gold
Wrestling is not limited to akhara. Every day we wage tough fights in the battlefield of life. But the story of a DTC bus driver and his family should inspire us to believe that with the right dav-pech (moves), determination and courage, the gold can be won, year after year.
Sushil was born in a lower middle-class family. He went to the akhara first with his cousin, who gave up his passion because only one in the family could have pursued his dream.
With no funds available from the government for wrestlers — they aren't cricketers, silly — the family realised their tinned ghee and desi milk was enough just for one.
Today, as an old saying goes, rivers of milk and ghee flow through the homes of the Jat family of Najafgarh.
A fighter doesn’t quit till he is on the podium
Sushil is wrestling since 1998, when he was 15. Just to put it in perspective, this was when Azharuddin was still the captain of India and Rahul Dravid was settling down at the crease. One is now a semi-retired politician and the other a brilliant commentator.
But Sushil has been marching from one podium to the other: Asian Games, Commonwealth Championships, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Olympics, turning defeats into triumphs, silvers into golds and bronzes into silvers.
The history of Indian sport is full of fallen stars, legends who let us down, heroes who failed us at crucial moments, cricketers who took ages to cross personal milestones. But Sushil has always left India with just one message: See you on the victory podium.
Winners make it large only on battlefield
We have heard filmstars tell us ‘large banate jao’. We have seen sportsmen turn into kings of ‘good times’. Sushil, it is suspected, follows the advice but only when only when he advertising his favourite drink, which remains milk.
Soon after the 2012 Olympics, Sushil refused an offer for becoming the brand ambassador of a liquor company, saying he did not want to send wrong signals to the youth. The company immediately turned to cricketers.
Isn’t the idea of a young boy from a modest family fighting against heavy odds, lifting his opponents and throwing them on the mat, winning every major fight of his life and then settling down with a glass of milk to celebrate, the closest we have come to realising the dream of a desi superhero?
Full Coverage: Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014
(The views expressed by the writer are personal)