What’s in a surname

... A lot,insists promising wrestler Amit,as after Sushil's exploits it helps to be a 'Kumar'

Written by Vinayak Padmadeo | New Delhi | Published: July 2, 2012 3:34 am

The hit British television show may have made the Kumars a household name,but in the world of wrestling,it carries an unmistakable aura and serious reputation. All thanks to Sushil Kumar and his clutch of medals at the world stage.

So when 19-year old Amit Dahiya,the first Indian wrestler to book a slot in the London Olympics,decided to adopt Sushil’s last name instead,it doesn’t come as a big surprise.

“I knew that outside India,people take the Kumar name very seriously after Sushil won bronze in Beijing and so I changed my surname. Now when I go out,wrestlers ask me,‘you’re Kumar from India right?’ They think I must be good because I am a Kumar too,” says Amit. Tinkering with your surname isn’t anything new in Indian wrestling. It is in fact a tradition at Mahabali Satpal’s Chhatrasal Akhada,adopted to break the class divide.

It was here that Satpal Singh Sherawat dropped his,and Sushil Solanki became Sushil Kumar,literally.

Even a cursory look at Amit Kumar’s story tells you Sushil’s influence doesn’t merely stop in the matter of nomenclature. His humble beginnings mirror that of most of the wrestlers from this part of the country.

Hailing from the Nahri village in the Sonipat district of Haryana,Amit,for long,was supported by his father on the income from rearing buffaloes and selling milk. The village mud wrestling contests with their fast cash would have been the easiest option for many a young wrestler,especially if his finances were tight.

Big impact

This is where the success story of somebody like Sushil had an impact on a generation of young wrestlers,broadening their horizons. Aspirants realised international success and the Olympics are now a possibility,and worth more than confining themselves to be local pehelwans.

So the nine-year old Amit forsook the local mud pits and took the step of joining the Chatrasal Akhada. The training was better,more rigorous and scientific. His gurus at the akhada have provided him with a laptop to help analyse videos of his opponents. There was always the inspiring presence of wrestlers who started from similar circumstances like the aspirants,but had gone on to conquer the world.

“I and other akhada friends had given a warm send off to Sushil and Yogeshwar before the Athens Games. It felt special and I wanted to be part of such occasions. Now I’m going too,”says the 19-year-old.

The right training at an early age,combined with his natural talents,saw Amit rise meteorically. Moving from the junior to senior category without missing a beat,Amit upset several bigger names in the 55kg weight category. “I was thinking to play another year in the junior ranks,but my coaches thought otherwise. I beat them all,who they thought could win medals in international tournaments.” He won gold at last year’s senior nationals in Gonda,and bagged his first senior medal (bronze) at the Dave Schulz Invitational tournament at Colorado Springs,USA. Then came the big break, gold in Asian Olympic qualifiers in Astana,Kazakhstan and a ticket for the 2012 Games.

The wrestler is set to join the Railways soon and one can see his story has already made it to his village. An Amit poster directs the way to his home in Nahri. It is not just the wrestler who has grown into the responsibilities of a sportsman,it is also his parents.

“We don’t let him stay here for long otherwise he will miss his training. It’s good that he stays there. More than us he has done the hardwork and deserves all the attention,” says mother Shiela Devi.

His father,Narendra Singh Dahiya,says that on the rare occasion that Amit is home,he doesn’t bother his son with house-hold jobs. “He hasn’t been here long enough to know how to go about such things. He belongs in his world,as a wrestler.”

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