New Delhi/Indore: There have been many nights in the life of Khelo India University Games medallist wrestler Sunny Jadhav (60kg), who still lives in an Indore slum, when he would just have tea and biscuits for dinner, or would go to sleep empty stomach. He would clean cars to earn his livelihood to feed himself and his family, particularly after his father passed way following a brain haemorrhage in July 2017.
Cleaning cars and doing such odd jobs in the morning would fetch Jadhav just Rs 150, and he would train later in the day. When Jadhav's father was alive, they would earn between Rs 500 and Rs 600 a day. Besides, Jadhav's mother, too, would chip in.
"My father was healthy but he suffered brain haemorrhage in 2017. Since he was the only breadwinner, I had to do odd jobs to survive," Jadhav told IANS.
"While I had to do the odd job, my mother still works in a day care centre. I sometimes went to bed hungry as I couldn't earn - or just had tea and biscuits for dinner," said the college going wrestler.
Jadhav senior was a former national level wrestler, and he would run a small dhaba to have both ends meet. Since July 2017 that responsibility fell on Jadhav, who started doing the odd job - and also squeeze time out to train as well. Having started as a freestyle wrestler, his switch to Greco Roman style brought in a dramatic change in his fortune and now he is a medal contender in the 60kg in the National Greco-Roman Championship beginning in Jalandhar on Saturday.
Jadhav would be high on motivation in Jalandhar, one reason being that the sports ministry this month gave him Rs.2.5 lakh cash incentive for his training. From that purse he is going to return the money he has borrowed from people, including his coaches.
"For the past few weeks I had been spending sleepless nights because the money borrowed from friends and coaches to fuel my training had crossed Rs1 lakh," Jadhav said.
"I will repay the coaches and friends from whom I had borrowed money in the recent past for training. After paying them, I will keep the remaining amount to supplement my daily diet," he said after a training session from Indore.
Sarwar Mansoori, coach of Jadhav at the Malhar Ashram School, run by the Madhya Pradesh government and adopted by the Sports Authority of India, said the fund will motivate his ward.
"On hearing the news of the cash incentive brightened his face. It will be big motivating factor for Jadhav at the national competition starting. For us, if he wins gold, we will feel he has repaid our money," Mansoori told IANS.
Jadhav had borrowed over Rs 60,000 from former Commonwealth Games medal-winning wrestler Kirpa Shankar Patel, who has been supporting him for some time. "I owe a lot to Patel sir. In the last three years, I have borrowed more than Rs 60,000 from him," said Jadhav.
Jadhav has two elder sisters, and both are married. After his father expired, he wanted to quit wrestling, said Patel. But since Jadhav had won medals in the nationals, senior players and coaches prevailed upon him to continue. And he agreed to continue.
Patel points out what Jadhav has gone through. "If a wrestler is eating roti with onion and could win silver medal in the nationals, he has to have some talent. Hence, we decided to give him things like supplements or kit whenever it was required," said the national-level coach.
"Jadhav's financial position is very bad. His younger brother is also training. And the family doesn't have enough money. Without a solid background, aiming for a medal in the National Championships is equally challenging. Top players generally take nutritious food consisting of milk and milk products on a daily basis apart from dry fruits and protein rich diet," Patel said about the importance of good food for wrestlers.
Mansoori is optimistic about Jadhav's prospects at the National Greco-Roman Championship beginning on Saturday. "He has won silver thrice in three different national level competitions. This time his target is to upgrade it to gold," he said.