New Delhi: Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar may have made India proud by being only the second Indian to win an Olympic medal in wrestling. But many likeKumar start out at Akharas (wrestling rinks) that are finding it hard to sustain the sport. Akharas continue to train pehlwans (wrestlers) for petty dangals (bouts/contests) held in villages of adjoining states with a rare one reaching a prominent match held for a national or international championship.
Sadly, dreams fade fast in the world of Indian wrestling. Most wrestlers have small ambitions hoping to make a living out of government jobs while they wrestle on the side. This steady income often proves inadequate for the kind of diet that a wrestler needs to sustain himself in the world of professional sport. With cost of special diets reaching nearly Rs15,000 a month, they resort to training children in their villages to make an extra buck. All this becomes possible due to the long leaves they get for training from their respective employers. The government employs sportspersons at the Class IV or Lower Division Clerk levels with salaries between Rs 12,000 – Rs 15,000 a month.
Even though wrestling may not be a paying sport in India, there is no lack of enthusiasm amongst youngsters. Their hopes of entering the big league may keep Akharas running for sometime longer.