Not long ago, a teenager from the village of Dabhota in Nalagarh, Himachal Pradesh, was happy at home when he won the donga (bowl) at the Kabaddi tournament. His mother was on an empty stomach for the son's well-being, and the only thing he thought was to eat in that bowl the same day. Two years ago, the same boy won another tournament in Ahmedabad, winning 12 final riders. But this time the prize was not a bowl, but the Kabaddi World Cup trophy country.
Ajay Thakur, Captain of the India Kabaddi team and Tamil Thalaivas in the Pro Kabaddi League, remembered his childhood day in a conversation with Financial Express Online. Thakur represents the generation of Kabaddi players who played in the sport, despite the lack of the necessary infrastructure and investment in the country.
Unlike the current generation, Thakur and his contemporaries did not have the luxury of participating in the preferred tournament, such as the Pro Kabaddi League, which not only provides them with a platform to showcase their talent but also extends financial stability.
Thakur's only motivation was to represent India in Asian games. "When we were young, the winners of the tournament were usually dishes, such as bowls and glasses, but our way of thinking was different. We never thought there was anything more about it. Country ke liye khelna, Asian games khelna … bas yehi dream tha. Liga toh thi nahi tab (Our only dream was to represent the country. There was no league at that time), "he said.
Raider's 32-year-old remembered one of the unforgettable days of life when he won "donga" for the best rider Ahoi Ashtami – In North India, celebrated a one-day festival in which mothers promptly fostered their son's well-being.
"There is a festival in our village where mothers are rapidly winning their children's well-being," said Karva Chauth, "My mom was quick and I played a tournament this day," reminded the happy Thakur.
Read | Pardeap Narwal EXCLUSIVE Interview
"I won Dong for the best raider. I was so glad I was 5km away from home, thinking that I'm just eating this dish today. My mom was also very happy. Bas inhi cheezon mein maza ata tha us samay (All this little thing that brought us great joy with it), "the captain of the Indian said, even when he issued an invitation to his house to see all the accessories he had won as a child.
Although he has played for Kabaddi for over 15 years, Thakur has come to the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup when he unilaterally withdrew the Indian side, which ended with 13-18 points to Iran. Thakur scored 12 points in this game and finished as the main tournament score with 68 points on his name.
– Tamil Thalaiva (@tamilthalaivas) November 5, 2018
However, Kabaddi was not the first sport that the Captain of Tamil Thalaiva tried out.
His father, Chottu Ram, was a national wrestler, and it was the first sport to which he was oriented. He tried his hands for a fight for about two years and competed in a category of 57 kg. But Thakura was destined to play Kabaddi, and soon she took a fever.
"I am from a humble background. My father always had a dream that one of the family represented the country." For sports, that was not important. "Kabaddi was very popular in our village at that time, so I started playing …aur fir dheere dheere aa gaye isi sport mein," he said.
Asked if his father was against his decision to play Kabaddi, Thakur said: "My father actually ordered me to fight and concentrate on Kabaddi. I was 13 or 14 when I started playing Kabaddi."
Thakur continues to watch the bout even now, but his favorite sport except Kabaddi is Circle Kabaddi. "I watch a lot of Circle Kabaddi on my mobile phone, these players inspire me," he said. This format is popularized as the Kabaddi Punjab circle style, regulated by the Indian Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation.
In this format, the play area is a circle with a radius of 22 meters. It is divided into two parts with a middle line. Unlike the standard Kabaddi, there are no lobbies or bonus lines in the circle style. Eight players start playing on both sides, but 5 players stay on the bench as a rolling replacement.
Asked which athletes inspired him, Thakuram had only one name – Pankaj Shirsat Ji. The Kabaddi player-turned-cop has won India's 2006 Kabaddi World Championship title. Currently he is working in the Mumbai Police.
"I always sought Pankaj Shirsat Ji among the Kabaddi players. He is the only person I used to look at and say that I want to be. He always used to motivate me. I have not followed the athletes from any other sport in my life," said Thakur.
Thakur, who works for Himachal police, plans to keep himself busy in police duties. "I will take retirement because I am in the Himachala Police. Every player will have to do something – work or business. Once you are retired, you will have to do something. Ghar pe free baith ke kya karenge, "he added.
Faced with difficulties at the start of his career, Thakur understands the importance of money and the right contributions to the player. He believes that athletes who are not cricket players should also have their own businesses, but without losing their play.
"Most Kabaddi players have their own business. Even I have a gas company," he said.