Early morning travellers at the IGI airport were in for a bit of a surprise,as hundreds of army men gathered around gate No.1 of the T-3 terminal. As the banners several of them carried indicated,the crowd had gathered to greet the arrival of Subedar Vijay Kumar,silver medallist in the 25m rapid fire pistol event of the London Olympics.
There were several false starts,as the army band comprising drummers and bagpipers struck up march tunes with the shooter failing to appear from the airport. The routine went on several times,before Kumar,dressed in an Indian team blazer,finally stumbled out. Hair all tousled and still bleary eyed,he was greeted by the pops of hundreds of flashbulbs,piled with several layers of garlands while a hundred eager hands tried to shake his.
Kumar’s family comprising mother,father,grandmother,who had been positioned at the front of the procession,hurriedly made their way out of the crowd,which surged forward. Bravely he managed to hold onto a position and tried to speak while members of his unit 16 Dogra Regiment pushed onlookers away.
Eventually,however he failed,his voice drowned out by the drums and bagpipes and even by his fellow troopers who shouted chants of Vijay Kumar zindabad and Indian Army zindabad .
Kumar was finally ushered onto a ceremonial jeep,the one in which senior officers take salutes at parades. On that raised platform,he showed the silver medal that everyone wanted to get a look at.
While he still continued to look sleepy throughout the entire reception,the spectacle at the airport clearly made an impact. After I won the silver I realised it was an achievement of some value,but the real impact is only hitting me now that I have returned home. I received a reception in Mhow even after I had won medals in the Commonwealth Games,but the reception I have got at the airport is incredible, he said at a smaller and quieter reception for him a little later.
His long journey had also left him jet-lagged and he insisted his immediate aim would be to get some rest. I am a really tired. Even before the Olympics I was training at a lot of intensity so now all I would like to do is rest with my family for some time. But shooting is my career so I plan to get back to it as soon as possible, he said.
Indeed Kumar is already planning ahead. Winning the silver is good but it doesn’t feel enough. I have only been shooting for five years now. I want to prepare as well as possible by the 2016 Olympics. Over there I want to come back with a gold medal, he says.