Sakshi Malik's family besieged by media

"I don’t think we will be able to sleep before 11.30-12 at night. I have done about 20-25 interviews and mummy-papa must have done maybe double that so far," said elder brother Sachin Malik, visibly sleep-deprived but smiling and proud at Sakshi's achievement.

Sakshi's mother Sudesh, brother Sachin and father Sukhbir celebrate with sweets in their home in Rohtak.   -  Shanker Chakravarty

At 23, Sakshi Malik has ensured her name in the annals of Indian sporting history.

In the wee hours of Thursday, the baby-faced, smiling girl not only brought home India’s first medal at the Rio Olympics but also became the first Indian woman wrestler to get on an Olympic podium.

Her victory at Rio was a display of grit and determination, fighting her way back in the repechage rounds repeatedly from a trailing position in every bout. More than 14,000 km away, House No. 45, Sector 4, Rohtak, had had a busy day after a sleepless night.

"I don’t think we will be able to sleep before 11.30-12 at night. I have done about 20-25 interviews and mummy-papa must have done maybe double that so far," admitted elder brother Sachin Malik, visibly sleep-deprived but smiling and proud at Sakshi's achievement.

The media was there in strength at the elegant two-storied house in the quiet neighbourhood. Sakshi’s mother Sudesh, who refused to crib at the number of people walking in and out of her house — "there is no irritation, it’s an honour for the country what she has done and if people want to congratulate us, it’s an honour," she kept saying, before finally requesting a few minutes of rest, her voice lost.

Only for the assembled media to demand her presence citing prior commitment from the family!

The soft-spoken family had not been able to even eat a decent meal since Sakshi’s medal was confirmed. "It’s ok, we understand the importance of her achievement," said Sachin.

Starting from the Sir Chotu Ram Stadium under her first coach Ishwar Dahiya, the medal was a culmination of 12 years of hard work from a girl who was never the favourite to get one at Rio; compatriot Vinesh Phogat was, before she had to be stretchered off after injuring her knee in the quarterfinal.

It wasn’t an easy journey but being in a city did make things easier, as compared to the rest of the State. Haryana has one of the worst sex ratios in the country, is among the most conservative and patriarchal and yet, it has given the country most of its sporting champions.

In fact, of the four Indian women medallists at the Olympics, three have a Haryana connection — Saina Nehwal, Karnam Malleswari (married into a Haryanvi family in Faridabad) and now Sakshi.

"There were questions raised on allowing a woman to wrestle, there were a lot of objections both from relatives and neighbours. But we supported her and now we are proud of what we did," her family said.

The support is visible less obviously in other things as well. Like her brother’s married with a kid, at 25. At 23, Sakshi is yet to even think about marriage.

Her own sacrifices also helped. Despite a sweet tooth, Sakshi hasn’t had sweets or fried food or ghee for more than 7-8 years. Her only indulgence is aalu ka parantha topped with ghee whenever she is home.

Wednesday was also one of the most important days in North India which was celebrating rakshabandhan, when brothers promise to protect their sisters who tie the rakhi on their wrists.

Sakshi’s rakhi was tied by her cousin. "Her rakhi to me is the medal, which is priceless," Sachin added. He was also the first person she spoke to after the win.

She still isn’t satisfied, though. "She had wanted a gold, she had promised to get me one; she only has got a bronze now. Unless she gets the big prize, she won't rest, like she hasn't all these years," Sachin said before being pulled away by yet another channel for a 'live and exclusive.'

The parents, meanwhile, even though tired, continue to sport a smile for the cameras.

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