Winning a gold medal in any sports at an international platform follows a known pattern in India.
We look up the gender and caste of the athletes and try drawing some easy conclusions, along with a moral observation of how often other sports and sportspersons remain overshadowed by the undue popularity of cricket and cricketers in the country.
Vinesh, cousin of the famous Phogat sisters, is part of the bright narrative that can change Haryana's dark reputation. (Photo: Reuters)
Vinesh Phogat’s Asian Games gold medal, won by the first Indian woman, could have been a re-run of the same story.
But the fact that this Phogat sister is the latest addition to the ‘other face’ of Haryana, which is the same state that recorded over 1,000 reported rape cases in 2014-2016, and also bagged 22 medals in the Commonwealth Games, can take the narrative to a different reality of social change — the narrative which can ask why this ‘other’ face of Haryana can’t be the one, only and actual face of the state.
Haryana’s contribution to sports is not new. And this has been a feature across categories and gender. Kapil Dev, Nirmala Devi, Navjot Kaur, Babita Kumari, Deepa Malik, Sakshi Malik, Saina Nehwal, Sushil Kumar, Gagan Narang, Yogeshwer Dutt, Kavita Devi (the first woman wrestler in WWE 2017), Manu Bhaker, Vijender Singh, and of course, the Phogat sisters — the list is endless.
Plenty of analysis pieces attribute Haryana’s success in contact sports (boxing and wrestling) to the physical strength of the Jats, the influence of history and geography which has shaped the population.
There is no dearth of sports idols for Haryana youngsters, especially after Aamir Khan’s Dangal, based on the lives of the Phogat sisters (Geeta, Babita) and their father Manvir Singh Phogat. Ritu, Vinesh and Sangita are their cousins.
Pride of Haryana: Kavita Devi, the first Indian woman in the WWE, is an inspiring figure in her Indian costume. (Photo: DailyO)
The contribution of the state government has also been commendable in nurturing the region's talent. For international medals, the Haryana government offers the highest prize money in the country. In addition to this, there was ‘Padak lao, pad pao’ scheme during the erstwhile state government.
In 2007, hockey player Mamta Kharab and cricketer Joginder Sharma were made deputy superintendents of police. In 2008, Vijender Singh was made a DSP.
So, taking up sports is not actually just a hobby for Haryanvis. As Vinesh said in an interview, Haryana succeeds in sports because everyone is aiming to excel. And by excel, they mean the Olympics. And an aim at gold.
Additionally, many of these successful sportspersons want to set up training academies in the state. Dalip Singh Rana, popularly known as The Great Khali, reportedly wants a wrestling academy set up in Karnal district.
Aamir Khan's Dangal made the Phogat sisters famous — but what about Haryana's real strugglers, fighting it out every day? (Photo: India Today)
Unlike other states, sports and issues related to sports in Haryana come under great scrutiny. Like in 2016, Haryana sports minister Anil Vij led a nine-member delegation to the Rio Olympics, spending Rs 1 crore, but then didn’t watch many scheduled events of Haryana players. This understandably caused a furore.
Of late, the sports council has issued a notification mandating every sportsperson employed by the government to give the state one-third of their income from other professional engagements. The move, apparently aimed at strengthening the sports infrastructure of the state, was then put on hold, facing flak from sportspersons themselves.
A region full of winners: Haryana has many Phogat sisters and the state must not ignore them. (Photo: India Today)
We know Haryana now by the names of villages and cities like Balali, Jhajjar, Rohtak popularised by these very sportspersons.
But, on the other hand, to darken the glory, there are also Jind and Panipat stealing the hard-earned joys of the state by heinous crimes against women, aided by leniency of the local law and order apparatus.
Before another Dangal is made, celebrating the success of Haryana's girls, can this strange dichotomy end?
Can these two faces of Haryana merge and become one?
Can the state of Haryana win a gold for itself in real life? We would not stop applauding.