The entire village became delirious with joy when the referee raised Ravi Dahiya’s hand to signal the semifinal win, but Rakesh Dahiya remained glued to the TV installed in the community hall. He wanted to savour the highlights of his son’s bout as long as possible.
Rakesh was still soaking in those final frames when he was whisked away by revellers who stuffed his mouth with ladoos before lifting him on their shoulders. Within minutes, someone had wrapped a Tricolour around him as shouts of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” pierced the air.
Then, as the celebratory procession made its way to Ravi’s home just a two-minute walk away, Rakesh reluctantly agreed to dance a few steps. He still seemed a bit lost. But then, there is no manual to prepare a father for the day his child bags a medal in the Olympic Games. Rakesh, in fact, seemed relieved more than anything.
“We haven’t slept at all since last night…none of us in the family. We were so anxious and excited that we even forgot to prepare food. We are just having sweets and cold drinks now,” said Pooja, Ravi’s cousin.
RAVI KUMAR PINS HIS OPPONENT DOWN! 😱🤩
— #Tokyo2020 for India (@Tokyo2020hi) August 4, 2021
The celebrations at Nahari in Haryana would have echoed at the iconic Chhatrasal stadium in Delhi, which is considered to be the spiritual home of several wrestlers, including Ravi, who have trained under the famous coach Satpal Singh. The stadium, of late, has found itself in the shadow of infamy after its most famous son and two-time Olympic medallist, Sushil Kumar, was arrested on charges of murder.
“All those negative things don’t matter to us. We know that Chhatrasal is the best place where Ravi could have trained and coach Satpal ji is the best mentor that any wrestler in the country could find,” said Ravi’s uncle Rajesh Dahiya, a former wrestler who is now with the BSF.
Ravi had left home to pursue his dream at Chhatrasal even before he became a teenager. “Within a few years, Satpal ji told us our boy is a top athlete and will make it big. For Ravi, the coach’s word was final and he’s made it this far only due to his hardwork and discipline,” said Rajesh.
Even before joining Chhatrasal, Ravi had shown great interest in the sport. “I still remember how he and his younger brother would take off with langots to the local sandpit akhara,” Ravi’s aunt Rinki said.
Apart from the countless hours of practice, Ravi also had to sacrifice family and social life. “He hasn’t visited home since last Diwali. He wasn’t here even for my wedding. I was furious and felt some resentment. But now I realise how much that meant to him,” the aunt said.
Then again, the foundation of Ravi’s success was laid by his father. While Ravi trained at Chhatrasal, Rakesh would leave the village, about 10 km off the Sonepat highway, in the early hours with fresh milk and butter for his son. He would return later to work in his fields.
“Before I joined the BSF, my brother was the only breadwinner of the family. He not only made Ravi’s career but also took care of me and my family,” said Rajesh, the uncle.
Ravi’s father, like the son, is a man of few words. “It’s God’s grace that he won today and he will surely return with a medal around his neck…what more can I say?” Rakesh said.
For the village, meanwhile, Ravi’s medal brings hope, too — that the Haryana government will finally wake up to their long-standing demand for a hospital and regular power supply. “Now that a medal has come, I am sure things will change. We are still waiting for a regular supply of drinking water and electricity,” Rakesh said.
Nahari has a veterinary hospital but even that took an Olympics to materialise when Mahavir Singh, who featured at Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984, asked the then chief minister Chaudhary Devi Lal to intervene.
According to the residents, they get only two hours of electricity during the day and about six hours in the evening. But on Wednesday, local officials ensured the Olympics bout wasn’t interrupted. “They made some provisions. Usually, there’s no power at this time,” Rajesh, the uncle, said. But now, Nahari’s own star has lit up the entire country.