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Children of a lesser god

Children of a lesser god
Highlights

The demise of Shamsher Khan, the country’s first swimmer to make it to the Olympics, has brought to the fore the tragedy that befalls Indian sportspersons, who don’t belong to the ‘elite’ disciplines. Such has been the step-motherly treatment meted out to outstanding achievers that most have been shunned, and they remain faces in the crowd or are left to live a life of utter poverty. Khan’s life w

The demise of Shamsher Khan, the country’s first swimmer to make it to the Olympics, has brought to the fore the tragedy that befalls Indian sportspersons, who don’t belong to the ‘elite’ disciplines. Such has been the step-motherly treatment meted out to outstanding achievers that most have been shunned, and they remain faces in the crowd or are left to live a life of utter poverty. Khan’s life was a similar sorrowful saga, despite Chandrababu Naidu government gifting a one-time grant. Khan is not alone in the ‘shunned’ list of world-class sportspersons. Many either died in penury or continue to live a wretched life with no government willing to come to their aid.

Ironically, the otherwise ‘generous’ lot coming under garb of sponsors turn a blind eye to the wails of such achievers. These glamour-smitten ‘philanthropists’ would rather reward a Ranji cricketer. It is a sad commentary on the state-of-affairs that unless one is into cricket, tennis or, perhaps, badminton (a late entry into this chosen league), the individual will have to eke out a living to run the show. Just consider some of those whose lives have been accursed for no fault of theirs.

Most of them failed to get the patronage of godfathers. Swaran Singh who won the 110mts hurdles gold at the 1954 Asian Games drove a cab and was a farm labourer when he was 70 years old; sprinter Sita Sahu with a twin bronze medal haul in the 2011 Athens Special Olympics ran a chat bhandar along with her aged mother in Rewa; Makhan Singh created a storm when he raced past the Flying Sikh in the 1962 National Games and went on to pocket gold and silver medals at the 1962 Asian Games.

Since losing a leg in an accident, he was condemned to an impoverished life; One of the finest hockey players ever, Shankaer Laxman who was integral to two gold and a silver winning Indian teams at the Olympics had no money for medication and gangrene took a heavy toll. Hyderabad’s gifted footballer Mohd Yousuf Khan’s poignant story is one of agony. He stole thunder from under the nose of the best of world footballers, his prowess was so awesome that he figured in the Asian All Star XI.

He was afflicted by Parkinson's diseaseHis life was shattered as no State government honoured the promises made.Pugilist Dennis Sammy also died a poor man living in a rundown joint in Hyderabad’s Old City. Even more humiliating has been the way Major Dhyan Chand was treated at the fag-end of his extraordinary career. The stick wizard, who deserved to be the first sportsperson to be given a Bharat Ratna, was penniless when he passed away a loner in a hospital in 1979. It is time the authorities did something for such great personalities who played the game out of sheer passion and not for any materialistic gains. That is, perhaps, why they never enjoyed the ‘we are there for you’ patronage.

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