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Oct 18, 2009

In cemetery, grapplers fight to keep sport alive


Irshaad Khaleefa imparts training to budding grapplers at an ‘akhara’ in the Idgah cemetery, Roorkee.
Irshaad Khaleefa imparts training to budding grapplers at an ‘akhara’ in the Idgah cemetery, Roorkee. Photo by writer

Roorkee, September 18
 

To keep ‘mallyudh’ (mud wrestling) alive, the oldest traditional sport of the country, a group of local wrestlers are pitched against all odds here.
Struggling against the paucity of funds in the absence of any financial and other logistic support, these wrestlers have carved out a small ‘akhara’ for themselves in a local cemetery.
The ‘akhara’, set up by Irshaad Khaleefa, a former wrestler of the area around 25 years back, has become an assembly point for these wrestlers.
Most of them hail from downtrodden sections of society and are involved in menial jobs. Some of them are small-time hawkers selling fruits and vegetables while some work as labourers.
The wrestlers, who are 35 to 40 in number, lie in the age group of 12 to 35 years. It is their love for the sport that has enabled them to overcome all shortcomings, rekindling hopes of revival of ‘mallyudh’, which, otherwise, was on the verge of extinction in the region.
Irshaad Khaleefa, who imparts training to budding wrestlers every evening, claimed that despite all odds, the ‘akhara’ has produced many renowned wrestlers like Dilshaad Chandosi and Shamsher Chandosi.
On problems being faced by budding grapplers, Irshaad Khaleefa lamented no one was ready to help them.
“The organisation of sport activities in a cemetery is enough to tell the sorry state of affairs. The authorities here talk big but do nothing,” rued Khaleefa.
He added that they had approached government authorities for financial help many times but in vain.
“The utmost requirement of a wrestler is proper nutrition but as most of my disciples belong to poor families, they do not get a proper diet. Due to my limited resources, I am unable to help them in this regard,” said Khaleefa.
He added that whatever the wrestlers earn from their menial jobs and local wrestling bouts, they spend it on building their physique.
“Earlier, ‘dangals’ (mud-wrestling bouts) used to be organised during every festival. This was the main source of income for wrestlers.
“With drastic reduction in the number of ‘dangals’ in the region, the wrestling scenario has totally changed of late,” said the coach.
The ‘khaleefa’ (guru) maintained that though cricket has overshadowed all sports in the country, people in this rural area still love ‘mallyudh’. “In the ‘dangal’ on Id every year, over 20,000 persons gather at our akhara,” he said.
“If the government or social organisations come forward to help wrestlers here, they can touch new heights,” said Khaleefa maintaining that sports is a good way to keep the youth away from drugs and crime.

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