Time at 5 o’clock in the evening .… The place Khandra village of Panipat district of Haryana, where the childhood of Neeraj Chopra, the athlete who created history across seven seas, was spent. On entering the village, a crowd of people was seen at a chaupal, on which Neeraj Chopra, the first Indian to win a silver in the World Athletics Championships, was applauded amidst the hum of hookahs from elders. The family is giddy with the son’s achievement.
When Woman Bhaskar reached Khandra village, the happiness of Neeraj Chopra’s Baba Dharmendra Singh and father Satish Singh at Chapal was clearly visible from the smile on their faces. There is an influx of congratulators. Uncle Bhim Singh is narrating the stories of his beloved son to all the people sitting there. Some children of the village and the house are engaged in making their faces happy and sweet for the sake of the visitors. I also sat at the chaupal for some time and expressed my curiosity to know about Neeraj’s childhood.
Neeraj’s weight was more than 80 kg at the age of 13
Baba Dharmendra, sitting in a turban nearby, started telling in a Haryanvi tone – ‘Neeraj is the eldest child of the house. Everyone is very sweet. Especially your grandparents. Grandmother would pamper him with a bowl full of milk by making him sit on her lap. Churma and malida were eaten. Due to this, at the age of 13, Neeraj’s weight increased to more than 80 kg. Seeing his fatness, the family members started getting worried. He was then sent to a gym in Panipat, where he would sweat profusely to lose weight.
Coach Sir was surprised to see Neeraj’s first attempt
Dharmendra Singh told that it is a matter of those days – one day Neeraj left the gym and reached a nearby stadium. There some children were practicing javelin throwing. Neeraj, after talking to those children expressed his desire to throw the spear once, then he caught the spear. In the very first time, Neeraj’s spear fell so far, where the children who had been practicing for several months could not reach.
The coach asked – who are you? Where are you practicing? Neeraj replied- ‘Yes, I am Neeraj Chopra. To lose weight, I come from Khandra village to the nearby gym here. On this the coach said – leave the gym and come to the stadium from tomorrow. Here the weight will also be reduced. Neeraj left the gym from the same day and started practicing by going to the stadium.
I expressed my desire to visit the house and meet the women of the house. Neeraj’s father, Satish Singh, dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, took me to his house about 400 meters away from the meeting. While going home, I asked- Since when did Neeraj not come to the village? In response to this, the father says – it is going to be about 7 months. Came for two days after winning the Olympic medal. Right now he has a few more tournaments back to back, which will run till September. After that he can come home if he gets time. After stopping for a while, he said again – in the last 10 to 12 years, he must have been with us for hardly a month. Now he has to celebrate Holi-Diwali, Rakshabandhan and birthday all outside.