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Spiked out

Once a national-level volleyball player, Roshan Lal wages a grim battle against poverty, reports Saurabh Duggal.

other Updated: Aug 12, 2009 01:37 IST
Saurabh Duggal

He was the best in the business, the heart and soul of his team. Now, Roshan Lal spends his days standing vigil in a factory, in a world far removed from the volleyball courts he once ruled.

A regular starter for the Haryana Police team, Lal was often spoken of as one with a bright future in the sport. He soon made the cut for the state team, and looked set to claim a berth in the national side. But events took a different turn.

A product of Haryana Sports Department’s nursery in Gurgaon, Lal made it to the state’s senior team in 1994. He also played a pivotal role in Delhi University’s silver in the All India Inter-University volleyball tournament.

“I took the job in the general category as I missed the dates of the trials. It was bad luck that all the appointments in the general category were cancelled,” he says.

Lal lost his job after the then Om Prakash Chautala government repealed as many as 1600 constable appointments on the pretext of them being ‘unlawful’.

“I was returning home from the nationals in Calicut when the news came,” recalls Lal. “It was the end of the world, I had no other source of income and mentally, I was broken.” Life had to go on.

Lal signed up as a security guard in a factory to provide for his wife and three kids. “What happened was destiny,” Lal says, as he reluctantly walks you to his one-room shanty with a temporary roof.

Inside, there are two beds that occupy almost the entire area. Every morning, Lal and his two sons move the beds to a corner to make space for the kitchen. Space is at a premium, but Lal has a fixed spot for his numerous trophies, neatly stacked away in a corner. But Lal doesn’t want to remind anyone, more pertinently himself, of his years as a successful spiker.

“I haven’t told my colleagues that I was a national-level volleyball player,” he says. “They wouldn’t believe me anyway, and even if they do, what impression would they have of my sport?”

The 35-year-old security guard earns a meagre Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 each month and is employed for 9-10 months in a year. Scarcity has forced him to apply for a Below Poverty Line (BPL) card. Lal harbours no regrets about having chosen a career that provided him with no comforts or sense of security. He does not regret being a sportsperson and still enjoys playing the odd game of volleyball in his village.

He has but one wish — getting back his Haryana Police uniform.