WRESTLERS talk excitedly but in hushed voices about the party Mausam Khatri should be throwing. Yet, they are unsure of how to coax the moody, gargantuan wrestler to loosen his pursestrings.
At the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) regional centre in Sonepat, curiosity about “crorepati Khatri” has spiked.
The heavyweight is back at the national camp after pocketing Rs 1 crore by winning the Bharat Kesari Kushti Dangal on Wednesday. The eight digits on the winner’s cheque made this dangal (wrestling competition), which was held at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Gurgaon, the richest in the country.
To put his earning figure in perspective, Khatri says the maximum prize money he has taken home after winning a dangal prior to this, was Rs 2.5 lakh. But the Guangzhou Asian Games bronze medallist is in no mood to indulge his fellow trainees and host a party. He’d rather spend the money on himself. There could be a wedding in the family soon, he says.
For reasons he can’t put a finger on, says Khatri, marriage proposals had stopped coming of late. But since news spread of the 26-year-old becoming a “crorepati” overnight, his mother Rajbala has received a couple of enquiries about this Haryana Police sub-inspector from Panchi Jatan village.
“I am the only one in my family who is not married. My older brother is married and so are my four sisters. I don’t know why par ladki nahi mil rahi thi (but we were not able to find a girl). Hopefully, there will be some good news soon,” said Khatri.
The wrestler also wants to upgrade his car. In the parking lot of the SAI centre in Sonepat, Khatri’s Maruti Swift is dwarfed by SUVs. “Most wrestlers drive around in swanky SUVs. If you are a wrestler you must own at least one SUV, even if it is a cheaper model. I am hoping to buy one soon,” said Khatri.
Then, a part of his earnings will be given to his brother Rajpal who tills the land on the family’s 10-acre farm. Painting and refurbishing of his house is also on the cards.
“I want to keep aside some of the money for my wrestling, too. I spend close to Rs 50,000 a month on my diet and other needs. I want to use the prize money to help me become the best possible wrestler,” said Khatri.
Coach Anoop Singh, a Dronacharya awardee, talks about how as a teenager, Khatri was looking for the first opportunity to skip the camp and head to a dangal. “He would constantly pester me to give him an off day from the camp so that he could participate in one dangal or another. He has a major fan base among those who follow mud-pit wrestling,” Singh says.
Last week, close to 20,000 people watched Khatri win the Bharat Kesari. And on current form Khatri, who competes in the 97 kg category, can finally claim to have the upper hand over his main rival Satyavrat Kadian. Khatri had lost to Kadian in their previous two encounters, including at the national wrestling championship in December. The two clashed in the semifinal at Gurgaon and Khatri got his revenge. For the fans the semifinal between the two strongest pehalwans in the country was the final.
Last week’s dangal was held on the mat instead of the mud pit, was approved by the Wrestling Federation of India and organised by the Haryana government.
As if trying to pre-empt those who may try to undermine his win, Khatri also points out that 52 of the strongest wrestlers in the 80 kg to 125 kg category participated, the competition was telecast on Doordarshan and followed international rules.
“I want to make up for the lost time. There are those who believed that my career was over when I lost two years because of a ban,” said Khatri, referring to the official sanction that 12 athletes, including six wrestlers, were handed in 2012 for using a banned stimulant.
The popular dangal star recalls how he missed out on a purse of Rs 21 lakh when he was barred from competing. “That particular dangal was the richest before this one. It was recognised by the federation and hence I could not participate as I was banned,” he said.
Recently, Khatri received another setback when he lost his father Subeh Singh to cancer in September. “My father was also a pehalwan and encouraged me to take part in dangals. My father ensured that as a teenager I got the best possible nutrition. It was difficult for him to make both ends meet but he managed,” said Khatri.
Manjeet Rangeela, Khatri’s friend and a fellow wrestler, knows how difficult it was for the star to deal with the loss of his father. “He was very close to his father and after he passed away his motivation to train was affected,” said Rangeela.
The Bharat Kesari title has now helped Khatri rebound. After, all he is now officially the country’s “strongest wrestler”.