Limelight powers hockey champion’s home after 40 years

Pic: Rons Bantwal

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MUMBAI: "It was virtually a journey from darkness to light," said 21-year-old hockey champion Yuvraj Walmiki, minutes after getting an electricity connection in his 16x16-square-foot shanty at Marine Lines on Wednesday afternoon. Three generations of his family have been living without electricity for the past four decades.

That’s not all. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for Yuvraj. Chavan further said the state cabinet had also, in principal, approved a proposal to accommodate him in a state government job.

On his homecoming to the city after winning the coveted Asian Champions Trophy in China, Yuvraj was greeted by numerous childhood friends, neighbours, relatives and his proud parents. "I owe a lot to my father and mother, who despite their humble background and poverty, ensured that I study in a college and pursue my passion - hockey." His father, Sunil, is a driver who now earns Rs 6,000 a month while mother, Meena, is a housewife.

On his arrival at their tiny residence in the compound of Neelkanth Niranjan Society, Yuvraj was first greeted by BEST committee chairperson Sunil Shinde, who handed him documents for the new power connection. The BEST has waived off the connection charges and deposit amount. "The family lived on candles and had no fan for so many years. Their good times have finally arrived," said Shinde as he handed over the papers to the young champion.

An overwhelmed Yuvi, as he is fondly called by friends, said, "It is a dream come true. Six years ago, in this very compound, I had vowed to make my country proud. And today, I am part of the winning Indian team. Wow." His friends lifted him on their shoulders and paraded him through the lanes and bylanes of Marine Lines amidst bursting of crackers, drumbeats and garlands.

The youngster had taken a liking to hockey when he was all of six and played with a plastic hockey stick in the building compound, recalled his father. Yuvraj said he was fascinated with the sport from his school days and pursued it with great dedication and focus. "We (family) had very little space in the house and I spent most of the time in the compound, sitting on a chair or reading school books under the society light," he said. He would often sleep under the open skies as the cramped room had little space for a family of six. There is no water pipe connection and the family members use toilets in the neighbouring offices for their daily ablutions.

His mother, Meena, said that the family had taken several loans to bring up the children. Yuvraj’s younger brother, Devendra, too is a junior hockey player while his elder brother Rakesh works as a peon in a private firm. "We have seen bad times and we had no money to arrange for proper meals. We survived on support from relatives and well-wishers, some of whom partly sponsored the education of our children." She showed this correspondent the streetlight under which Yuvi would study for his exams. "He has been a good student (currently, an undergrad at Rizvi college) and an excellent sportsman," said his father.

While refusing to comment on the controversy over the prize money offered to the hockey team in Delhi, Yuvraj said, "I was nervous before scoring that crucial goal against Pakistan. I told myself repeatedly near the goal post that this was the day I had yearned for, my family had sacrificed for, my friends had supported for, my coaches (Dhanraj Pillay and Robin Bawa) had waited for ... I couldn’t have let anyone down, and certainly not my country."

Comments on this Article
deeps, india Fri, September-16-2011, 9:24
The visit was useful. Content was really very informative. visit : indiagiftservices dot com (Send gifts and flowers to India.).
Sadananda, Udupi Thu, September-15-2011, 5:58
In India people adore cricket because philosophy of our government is play only cricket and spend five days of precious time wasting just watching and relaxing in front of TV resulting in losses of millions of hours of work billions of revenue losses due to cuts in productivity. What I would suggest is give same importance to all sports fields like hockey, soccer, tennis, etc that’s only few hours of demonstration in play.
Anil, Burdubai Thu, September-15-2011, 2:09
25K as prize for hockey players? Shameful
Rajesh, Malpe Thu, September-15-2011, 1:29
This happens only in India....
Oswin, Dubai Thu, September-15-2011, 8:04
I was really in tears while reading about Yuvi and his family the person who made India Proud by hitting that goal which brought Asian Championship to India and the sports ministry initially rewarded them with just Rs. 25000/= what a shame?? Why this happens in INDIA for sports other than cricket?? See the condition of Yuvi and his family, how he struggled in his life, why there is no proper attention to National Players other than cricket??
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