Chandigarh: She would not have become an international wrestler had her father not been strict. Perhaps, she would have been confined to the four walls of the house as a shy girl. These were the childhood stories of two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Babita Phogat at the third edition of Playwrite, a sports literature festival, here.
The first session named Olympic Dreams was started by one of the founders of Playwrite, Vivek Atray, a former IAS officer.
The session featured Babita, daughter of wrestling coach and Dronacharaya award winner Mahavir Singh Phogat, whose character was played by Aamir Khan in the blockbuster “Dangal”.
“Dangal movie wasn’t an exaggeration. In fact, in reality, I and my sisters weren’t even allowed to attend family weddings by my stringent father, if they came in between our training. We had nowhere to escape to, when your own father is your coach,” she said.
Recalling her childhood, she said she would often ask her mother why her life had made so difficult by her father.
“My mother would just reply, ‘bas 2 saal aur’ (wait for just two more years). This continued until I reached the place where my father wanted me to.”
Babita also spoke about how people in her village would taunt her and her sisters for wearing shorts and playing amongst the boys.
“However, in such times, my father would just say: You just do the hard work, leave everything else to me.”
At Playwrite, Babita was accompanied by her husband, Vivek Suhag, who is a wrestler himself.
When she was asked if her life changed in any way after marriage, she said that she is lucky to have found a husband like her father, who is extremely supportive of her.
The next session, The Business of Sports, was conducted by Chitranjan Agarwal, co-founder of Playwrite and featured Joy Bhattacharjya, a famous sports quizmaster and associated with IPL’s Kolkata Knight Riders since 2008.
Bhattacharjya stressed on the importance of a parent’s role in shaping a child’s sporting career.
One of the most interesting points he made was that even though most people complain about India lacking sports facilities and infrastructure, yet what we lack the most is the interest of people at the basic level.
“Even great players like Ronaldinho have become great by starting to play in the streets only. What we really lack is enough passion for sports in general.”
The third session, ‘Hockey: The 70s Show!’, saw the participation of hockey legends like Ajit Pal Singh and Ashok Kumar. son of Major Dhyan Chand.
The session was hosted by sports journalist Prabhjot Singh.
The session had a surprise guest in hockey legend Balbir Singh Senior, who managed to make it even though he has not been keeping well since long now.
Ashok Kumar and Ajit Pal Singh were both part of the Indian team that won the 1975 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, the last Gold that the Indian hockey team won.
Citing some of the reasons why the Indian hockey team has failed to repeat the success story of 1975, both the veterans pointed to the introduction of astro-turf, which the Indian players and authorities were not familiar with at all.