Bapraula’s wrestling hero gets huge welcome home

August 26th, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Thousands of adoring fans from this village on the edge of the national capital came out on the streets Tuesday to give a rousing welcome to fellow villager and wrestling hero Sushil Kumar, who returned home with an Olympic bronze medal.Sushil, who gave India an Olympic medal in wrestling after 56 years, was lapping up all the adulation as he sat on an an elaborately bedecked elephant while drummers kept up a lusty beat.

The wrestler was driven in a flower-bedecked open jeep from the Indira Gandhi International Airport, where he landed in the early hours Tuesday, to his village amid fanfare.

A cavalcade of trucks, cars and motorcyclists jammed the roads leading to his home but nobody was complaining.

“We have been moving with him through the night and danced the whole night. Nobody, including Sushil, has eaten anything or taken a nap, still we do not feel exhausted,” said the wrestler’s proud uncle Jai Singh, sweat dripping from every pore.

Almost all the villagers of Bapraula near Najafgarh in west Delhi had gone to the airport to receive their now-famous son. Some of the women who seldom leave their homes appeared lost.

With folded hands that occasionally unfolded for a wave, Sushil acknowledged all the adulation, perched on the elephant and earlier in the jeep.

“I have tied a rakhi on Sushil’s wrist,” his sister told IANS. He had been in Beijing on Raksha Bandhan.

The wrestler was first taken to a temple in the village which had huge hoardings with congratulatory messages for him.

The residents would not allow their hero to walk and Sushil was taken to the temple on the shoulders of his friends and fellow wrestlers.

Amid the ruckus, his octogenarian grandmother Gyano was trying to get near her pet grandson. “I am dying to catch a glimpse of him. The crowd is so huge that I am not able to get near Sushil,” she said, speaking loudly to make herself heard above the bursting crackers and the drum beats.

Sushil’s parents, looking harried after being hounded by television journalists for sound bytes since Monday night, were not able to spend time with him either. He stopped at home only long enough to change before setting off for Chhatrasal Stadium, where he had been coached in wrestling.

“Maine aloo ke paranthey banaye they uske liye, socha tha khush ho kar khayega. Bechare ne raat se kuch nahi khaya (I had made stuffed potato paranthas for him, as he loves them. But my poor child has not eaten anything since last night),” said Sushil’s mother Kamala Devi.

“Now Sushil will not lie down. His next target is to win a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and in the 2012 Olympics in London,” his father Diwan Singh told IANS in their home, with his son’s medals and photographs adorning the wall behind.

After Sushil left for the stadium, the crowd thinned a bit. But the women continued to dance, celebrating the homecoming of the “son of the soil”.

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