Sparring to beat poverty

Namit Bahadur... showing promise.-

Namit Bahadur has the tenacity of a champion. He wishes to emulate Vijender Singh, the only Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

Poverty, in a way, continues to be the prime motivating factor among many Indian sportspersons. For Namit Bahadur, the bronze medal he won at the junior World Championship has brought hopes of a better life, far removed from the indigence he has been fighting from his thatched mud house.

Birsanagar, a residential locality in the outskirts of Jamshedpur, is now basking in the glow of the medallion that Namit won in Yerevan, Armenia, in May. The Bahadur household is a known name in the area. However, reality strikes hard as one is led through a maze of narrow lanes adjoining scores of mud structures to where the 16-year-old boxer resides. One has to bend low to enter Namit’s modest dwelling. In the absence of a decent place to display his medals — gold, silver and bronze — they all hang in a tangle from a rusted nail on the wall in a small room.

Jamshedpur, with its numerous sport academies instituted by Tata Steel, is a natural hub of sporting activities. Namit has also gained from the excellent facilities offered at the renowned J. R. D. Tata Sports Complex. “I won my first medal in a sub-junior meet at the age of 10. That was also the year when I was inducted to formal training under renowned coach Ernest Lakra (at the J. R. D. Tata Sports Complex),” says Namit.

The flyweight boxer went on to win gold medals in the sub-junior and junior categories in state and National meets before tasting his first success at the international level this year.

Namit learnt his early boxing lessons from his elder bother Raja Ram Bahadur, who was the first from a family of five to take up the sport. Though Raja Ram was a gold medal winner in National junior boxing, he could not pursue the sport as he had to look after his family. Raja Ram’s family lived on his earnings from the odd jobs he performed and on the meagre savings of his father Jang Bahadur, who worked as a ‘gangman’ (labourer) for Tata Tinplate.

The family has also gained from some benefactors who came to its aid after Namit started showing promise in boxing. A few people from the boxing fraternity in Jamshedpur have come forward to help Namit and ensure that he is not forced to meet the fate of his elder brother.

The Lakras — Earnest and his son Antrax, a National champion — who live nearby also support Namit and his family in many ways. Aruna Mishra, a former women’s National champion, is another person who is close to the Bahadur family. “Arunaji and Earnestji’s families have helped Namit in every possible way. He is doing well in boxing because they have taken care of many of his needs,” says Raja Ram.

Raja Ram is all praise for his younger brother and his ability to face hardships with a smile. Namit’s dedication to boxing hasn’t diminished his interest in academics one bit. He passed his secondary (Class X) exams with a first division and is eager to pursue his studies.

Namit’s dedication to boxing is such that even during his examinations he practised, on an average, at least five hours a day. “To compensate for the hours spent in practice he studied late into the night. He would often fall asleep on his books,” says Ram Bahadur.

Poverty seems to have strengthened Namit’s determination. He now wishes to emulate Vijender Singh, India’s only Olympic medal winner in boxing. “I have seen him (Vijender) on television and really love his style,” says Namit who, like many other young boxers in the country, idolises Vijender. “His style of attack is what interests me,” he adds.

People close to Namit say that he is humble but has the grit of a champion. He is expected to go a long way in his career.