From the dusty fields of Malakpur to the glamour of Pune: My Pro Kabaddi League journey
The Pro Kabaddi League today has completely transformed the face of Kabaddi. Kabaddi has become cool, glitzy and glamorous and it has changed the perception of the game. With every new season, there are millions of people cheering their favourite team, wearing their colours, waving team flags in the stadium with fierce loyalty and devotion.
As a player, receiving the unflinching love and support of so many fans makes me feel extremely grateful. This platform provides me with an opportunity to inspire, to impact and change lives, but this was not the case from the beginning.
While growing up, I was always captivated by sports and wanted to take it up. I belong to Malakpur in Uttar Pradesh and we have a robust sports culture in my hometown. Even as a village, Malakpur is known for churning out great sportsmen. The village boasts of a number of Arjuna Awardees and international players in wrestling.
Coming from a family of wrestlers and my paternal uncles being international wrestlers, I was naturally inclined towards wrestling. After a short stint with wrestling, I was introduced to Kabaddi during my school days. My encounter with this sport happened by chance as my school did not have wrestling so I started playing Kabaddi. To start with, I played for various school level and local tournaments and eventually, my interest in Kabaddi grew.
I faced criticism initially from my parents and villagers, but I did not let that dampen my spirit. My parents did not want me to pursue the sport but my passion for Kabaddi knew no bounds and I continued playing without my parent’s knowledge. When I started out, my dream was to make my parents proud by being one of the best Kabaddi players and bring glory to my family and village.
My first breakthrough for this sport came when I got a chance to play for the Junior Nationals for Uttar Pradesh. Ever since then there has been no turning back and I went on to play the Senior Nationals, and eventually represented the Services. In 2014, I played Nationals representing Services, where seeing my performance, I was selected to play for Pro Kabaddi League in 2016.
Playing for the Pro Kabaddi League is by far one of the most landmark events of my life. With PKL an entirely new chapter began for me and has impacted my life immensely. After the dedication and hard work that you have put in, having a platform like the PKL to showcase your talent is wonderful.
I began my PKL career with Bengal Warriors in season 3, then represented Puneri Paltan in season 4. I played for UP Yoddha in Season 5. In season 6, I was bought by Puneri Paltan for Rs. 1.15 crore, and earning this enormous amount was an extremely emotional moment for me. Being one of the highest-paid players brings its own set of responsibilities.
In season 7, the management put their faith in my abilities again. It is my third season with the team and Puneri Paltan is now like a family to me. I have had the opportunity to play with some of the best players throughout the years and learn so much from them.
I faced criticism for choosing a different path than the usual and going against the wish of my family and villagers was a difficult choice but I chose the unusual because I believed in my passion. I think following your passion in the face of adversities is what makes you great.
Now when I look back I am extremely thankful for whatever Kabaddi has given to me today. We should not be afraid of treading a new path and create a new life for oneself. Today, when I go back to my village and see the love and admiration in everyone’s eyes, it is extremely overwhelming for me. Seeing the children in my village wanting to take up the sport, makes me feel that I have been successful in what I set out for.