Of Dangal fame, Geeta Phogat and her wrestling sisters’ hair-raising story
For ‘Dangal’ fame Phogat sisters --- Geeta, Babita, Ritu, Sangeeta, Vinesh and Priyanaka --- sporting long hair was the biggest luxury.
Even as the movie opened to a full house on Friday --- and they were visibly overjoyed seeing the Aamir Khan-produced movie doing exceptionally well --- the close-knit family only wished they had the luxury to sport long hair.
Like any other teenage girl, the Phogat sisters too fancied long hair, but Geeta’s father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, was a hard taskmaster.
Ever since he introduced the girls to the gruelling sport of wrestling, rules were meant to be followed stringently --- no deviation, no digression.
And his six trainees had no option but to follow them. The rules were not just for Mahavir’s daughters Geeta, Babita, Ritu and Sangeeta, but also for Vinesh and Priyanka, his deceased brother, Rajpal’s, daughters.
“Be it the wrestling arena or elsewhere, indiscipline was never tolerated,” says Vinesh, whose determined run in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games was stopped by a freak knee injury.
Since entering her teens, Vinesh wanted to have long hair and it was only last year that she was ‘authorised’ to cherish her childhood dream, reveals ‘Akhada’, the authorised biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat, penned by this HT correspondent.
“In 2015, we were at a camp for five months away from Tauji’s (Mahavir) prying eyes. There I realised my dream. But, once when it was time to return home, I knew what was going to happen,” says the book.
“(However), to my surprise, as we resumed training, he didn’t say a word. Two or three sessions passed and still he didn’t say anything. But at the back of my mind, I knew this silence was calm before the storm.
“On the third day, during the evening session, he finally asked me and I froze. But, to my surprise, he did not say a word. He just asked. I could finally keep my long hair,”’ Vinesh says in the book, ‘Akhada’.
Except for Geeta, who being the senior-most and an acclaimed name in the sport, was the only one who got the permission to sport hair. The luxury was never accorded to the sisters.
As Vinesh recollected, “Tauji’s (Mahavir) instructions were carved in stone when it came to wrestling, and I knew I had to say goodbye to my long hair. I went in for a haircut the very same day, though very reluctantly.
“I could no longer whip my gorgeous hair back and forth. It had taken me months to grow it, something I had wanted to do since I was a teenager, and it took the hairdresser only a few minutes to trim it.”
A unique sacrifice, but one which earned the girls global recognition.