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Jan 12, 2013

‘Mud warriors’ struggle to keep kushti alive

By Suresh Golani
Free Press Journal

Bhayandar : While Sushil Kumar basks in the glory of becoming the first Indian to win a World wrestling championship gold medal in the recently held freestyle championship in Moscow, a group of former wrestling heroes, are pitched against all odds to keep the traditional ‘kushti’ (Indian combative wrestling sport) alive in Mira Bhayandar.

Struggling against the paucity of funds in the absence of any financial and other logistic support, these wrestlers had carved out a small ‘Akhara’ near Municipal Stadium in Bhayandar (West) ten years back in 2002.

The initial funding was done by then MLA Ganesh Naik. The ‘akhara’ is a small training academy for young aspiring wrestlers, most of who hail from downtrodden sections of society. “It is the love for the sport that has enabled us to overcome all shortcomings, rekindling hopes of revival of the traditional sport, which otherwise, was on the verge of extinction in the region,” says national-level referee (khalifa) and trainer, Vasant Patil.

On problems being faced by budding grapplers, veteran wrestlers lament that no one was ready to help them and to make things more difficult the local civic administration, instead of lending a helping hand, has classified the “akhara” as a commercial entity to impose a yearly rent of Rs 16,000. “The utmost requirement of a wrestler is proper nutrition but most us belong to poor families, and are unable to get a proper diet. And due to their limited resources from menial jobs, our gurus ( trainers) somehow manage to maintain the mud arena regularly treating it with herbs and special oils,” said a young wrestler.

Interestingly, despite all odds, this ‘akhara’ has produced many renowned wrestlers like Sneha Aagwane, Akshay Mane and Vaibhav Mane, while little mud warriors, including, Shubam Lad, Kapil Harmarkar, Nayan Kamble, Komal Desai, are religiously grappling in the hope of touching new heights in their very own ‘mallyudh’(mud wrestling).

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