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From almost quitting Kabaddi, to sharing the mat with his idols, U Mumba’s Rishank Devadiga is living a fairy tale

The turning point in his career was when he was selected for the Mumbai District Kabaddi Team.

Rishank Devadiga in action during a Pro Kabaddi League match
Rishank Devadiga in action during a Pro Kabaddi League match

Rishank Devadiga was just ten when he took his baby steps in the game of Kabaddi, while living in the Vakola area of Santacruz, a suburb of Mumbai. His locality, as Rishank describes is an area where Kabaddi is as fondly played as cricket is, in the other parts of the city. He calls it a local sport of his area, a statement that may no longer hold truth, considering the success of the Pro Kabaddi League, where Rishank has grown into one of the real stars, playing for his hometown team U Mumba.

Certainly the stardom was beyond the realms of imagination for Rishank, but growing into a Kabaddi player also wasn’t exactly a young Rishank had aspirations of. Although the interest and the passion for the game was something he acquired from his immediate surroundings, it didn’t go beyond means of a daily dose of recreation. “Whenever I stepped out of my house, there was always a game of Kabaddi going on, and that’s where I developed interest in the game, but I never decided of taking up Kabaddi professionally then,” recalls Rishank.

For Rishank, his life was about his mother, who single-handedly raised him and his elder sister after Rishank lost his father when he was just three. The two were all that he had in his life he told. “My father passed away when I was just three years old. Since then it’s my mother who has looked after me and my elder sister. Apart from those two, I had nothing else in my life when I was young,” he divulged.

The burden of financial sustenance forced him to work in a hotel, without being trained in that profession. He recalls his friend advising him to do so to help him get a job on the ship that paid fairly well, so that he could support his family. Midst all his endeavours to earn bread for his family, Rishank found time to do what he loved doing the most, that is, play Kabaddi. “After my H.S.C exam, I started working in a hotel. I hadn’t done any hotel management course, but I worked to support my family and get a job on the ship that paid well, as the financial condition of my family wasn’t great. But at the same time, I used to play Kabaddi at a local level,” Rishank remembers.

As he continued his toils on two fronts, there came a moment in his life that was potentially life-changing, but with destiny uncertain than unknown. Rishank got selected to play Kabaddi for the Mumbai district side when he expressed his desire to have a crack at playing the game professionally to his mother. Rishank’s mother left the decision to him, with an assurance of backing him either ways.

Her backing helped him choose Kabaddi he recalls, and the rest they say is history. “While I was working in the hotel, I got selected to play for the Mumbai District Kabaddi Team. That was a moment where I had to choose between Kabaddi and my job, so I asked my mother and she left the decision to me. That was a big moment in my life and that decision my mother took to allow me to play the game is why I am what I am today,” he says.

Rishank grew up idolising Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar, and today finds himself sharing the same dressing room with them. “Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar were my idols. I always used to look up to these two players, when I was a little kid trying to learn the game. And today, I am extremely delighted to be able to play with them,” Rishank says.

As a sportsman, being able to play the sport with your idol as your team-mate, is a very much stuff of dreams. Not all have a fairy tale in store for them, but for Rishank Devadiga, it has become a part of daily chores. The 22-year-old Kabaddi crazy youngster from the Kabaddi adoring locality of Vakola, is certainly living a fairy tale.



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