The biased sports scenario in Meghalaya!
Sports in India is still lacking in many ways. Although we are a cricket loving nation, there are a number of sports which have been widely ignored not just by government but also by the media. Dipa Karmakar who has wowed the nation with her exemplary skill and wonderful smile is case and point of this. Her counterparts at the Olympics have all been groomed in the best facilities/academies in their respective countries; Dipa however had to struggle for every single equipment which was mostly makeshift. This shows the sorry state of affairs in the country.
A heart-warming tale of four young boys from the small Northeastern state of Meghalaya in India who have battled immense poverty and difficulties to dominate national events in kickboxing shows us the great potential that remains untapped and unused in the state and the country as a whole. The four boys come from very similar backgrounds; all four have faced poverty and loss which is insurmountable in many ways.
Lamphrang Kharsahnoh (21), Pynnehbor Mylliemngap(20), Elbring Umbah (20) and Nangteishaphrang Nongkynrih (11) have won a number of medals for the state at national events held in Pune, Delhi and Kolkata. At a National event held in Andhra Pradesh this month, the boys yet again proved that they possess talent which deserve due recognition. Donee Ranee, their coach informed that 4 medals were bagged by Meghalaya in the tournament held last week in Andhra Pradesh.
What is different about them is they train without any proper equipments or gym, being kickboxers—they don't even train in the ring; reason being—they cannot afford to but this does not stop them from training. Most times they train at their coach Donny Ranee's house. Their coach has sacrificed personal comforts not just for himself but also his family's to ensure that these village boys get a fighting chance to make something of them.
All four come from a small village in Meghalaya called Smit, it's about an hour away from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. People in the village are mainly agricultural farmers and mostly work as daily wage earners. Lamphrang lives with his mother who is a worker at a small tea stall. He has graduated high school but as of now cannot think of college, there are many financial constraints. He hopes to join the army and hopefully sport will help him achieve this dream. Pynneh also comes from a very similar background; he is taken care of by an elder sibling. His mother is unemployed and he recently lost his brother who, like him was a black belt. He talks with pride about his brother but for someone so young to lose someone so close, it is amazing that he has such passion and drive to train and be better.
Elbring is the son of farmers, due to financial and economic reasons; he had to drop out of school a few years ago when he was in Class eight. He is a jolly person and even with his circumstances, he doesn't stop smiling for a minute. Nangtei is the baby of the lot, he is only 11. His mother sells vegetables. She sits next to him with the brightest smile, even though with their dire situation, she just wants to ensure her son's happiness and if kickboxing and wushu makes him happy, then she supports him unconditionally. It is extremely heartening to see such support in a world which is dominated by pressure. These boys are just doing what they love. What is common with all four of them is how supportive their families have been. Usually parents push their children to start earning to help with daily costs and do not approve of "extracurricular" activities but here we see simplicity in happiness and just being.
It is sorry to note that despite their achievements and the laurels these boys have brought to the state, the state does not seem to recognize or even care about the plight of these young shining stars. Donee Ranee goes on to rue that with only Rs. 75000 being allotted for the sport annually, the organization and campaigns consume a major portion of the capital leaving a very few for the actual tournament and the felicitation of the players. Moreover, even if these players qualify for an international event, the hefty travel expense is nothing that these players can bear considering their humble background. With more and more players proving their abilities, it is sad to know that their hardwork receive no recognition from the concerned authorities. Their coach however is bent upon training them to the best of his abilities whatever the circumstance may be.
– Jessica Passah & Shweta Raj Kanwar
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(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writers' own and TNT-The Northeast Today may or may not choose to hold the same views)