By Ayush Parti
In a small village called Harsana Kalan in Sonepat, the residents do not have much to look forward to. The area is mostly an agricultural land and there is a severe shortage of electricity. But the claim to fame for this village is that the children have a penchant for wrestling. Fuelled by dreams of getting out of their villages, seeing the world and making their families proud there is a training ground in the village where almost 100 children practice the sport of wrestling.
The children start practicing as young as 2 years of age, and the facilities are provided free of cost.
In order to gain a better understanding and bring light to this gem of a village hidden in Sonepat, we decided to pay a visit to the Harsana Akhada.
Upon reaching the akhada, we were greeted by the “guruji” or teacher by the name of Dharamvir Dahiya. He owns the akhada where students can learn, practice and master the sport of wrestling. Dharamvir has been teaching wrestling since 2002. Some of his students have excelled and become prolific athletes, representing Haryana and even India in wrestling tournaments around the globe. With great pride and passion, he shares that not a single student is required to pay any fee. With the help of government grants and prize money accumulated from winning tournaments, the facility maintains its operations.
“We make do with the bare minimum and are still happy in life because we get to pursue our passion. All these students are like my children, I do whatever I can to see them evolve and follow their dreams,” says Mr. Dharamvir.
The facilty comprises of acres of free space for the students to do physical training, an indoor gymnasium where wrestling practice takes place, an in-house organic garden where vegetables like onions and radish are grown. It also has an attached living quarter for around 20 people.
While touring the akhada with Dharamvir, we also saw young students share their almond milk, excited to see people paying a visit to the place they consider their second home.
While there are countless big and strong men around the vicinity, the local celebrity appears to be a tiny child who comes out of his fathers’ car, where both father and son are getting ready for their evening practice. Upon approaching the duo, the father exclaims that he is simply a hobbyist and his son, the true champion. Mr. Dharamvir continues to share how the 4-year-old has been practicing since he was two years old and had just learnt to walk.
The boy trains with students twice his age and has no difficulty in keeping up with them. The elder students always keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself as he is highly energetic, and despite his small stature he packs a mean punch.
When asked to perform some wrestling moves in front of us, he effortlessly competed against a boy much bigger to him in size. The boy’s diet consists of eggs, milk, ghee, chicken, and vegetables. It is easily evident that he has a natural talent for the sport, and everyone in the area is making sure that his health and safety is a top priority, along with balancing his education.
However, there are some major obstacles being faced by the Akhada. There is not a single air conditioner in the gymnasium, and during the summer months it becomes excruciatingly hot to practice for hours on end. Apart from this, there is not enough government support for helping female athletes to practice and excel, as they only provide financial assistance to girls who have already competed on a major stage and not to aspiring wrestlers. Along with this, things such as transportation is a major issue for the community, since the village is remote and hard to access. Means of transportation such as cars are like a far away dream and the surrounding infrastructure such as roads is severely lacking.
However, the silver lining to these challenges is the potential superstar within this four-year-old boy. The guruji has no doubt in his mind when he exclaims that this boy will go far and bring change to the village. Ver hopefully, he exclaims that the area will be recognized by its talent for wrestiling and development and prosperity w