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Mahavir Singh Phogat – A shining example of constructive fatherhood

An ode to Mahavir Singh Phogat, the man who achieved something which governments have failed to achieve female emancipation.

Mahavir Singh Phogat and family
Mahavir Singh Phogat with daughters Geeta and Babita

As we celebrate Father’s Day worldwide my mind goes back to Amitabh Bachchan’s tear jerking speech in Baghban wherein he mentions:

“Purane zamane mein pita ke charno mein swarg dekhte the hum”

As the sporting culture grows in our country there is increasing talk of specialised coaches, mushrooming young talents, diet, physios, competition et al.

Buried in the maze of people around an athlete are parents whose physical and financial sacrifices are not given the kind of attention and respect that everyone else gets.

There are many parents of successful and not so successful athletes who give it their all to further the interests of their offspring and in some cases further their own sporting dreams through children.

Shining through the multitude of achievements of his daughters is Mahabir Singh Phogat the man whose sheer determination has given us the famous Phogat sisters whom I would safely call the 1st family of Indian wrestling.

His daughters Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat, Ritu Phogat, Sangeeta Phogat and niece Vinesh are the ones who have already set out on the path to glory and achieved laurels.

The eldest Geeta who is the path breaker and role model for the younger siblings was the 1st Indian lady to ever qualify for the Olympics. What is not so often mentioned about Geeta, is that she was the 2012 World Championship bronze medalist and it was the mighty Saori Yoshida who proved her obstacle on the road to the final.

Babita who has emulated her elder sister by qualifying for Rio Olympics 2016 was also a World Championship quarter-finalist last year. She is the defending Commonwealth Games champion too.

Ritu the 3rd of Mahabir’s daughters has won silver and bronze at the World Juniors along with gold at the Junior Asian Championships. Safe to say she is India’s best 48 kg grappler after her cousin Vinesh.

Vinesh Phogat is probably the best from the Phogat family and her achievements over the last couple of years have bordered on the awesome. Asian Champion, CWG gold medalist and now on her way to Rio. Probably India’s best bet for a gold medal at the Games.

So much for achievements!.

What about the father himself? Mahavir.

In a state steeped in patriarchy and a nation starved of sporting glory, it is rare that one family could produce so many champions, three of whom have won gold medals on the global stage.

Lest we forget all these champions are women and play a sport, wrestling, that is anything but feminine. And that this happened in Haryana, the Indian state that is infamous for the poor treatment of its women – with the lowest sex ratio among all states and an abysmal female literacy rate of 60%.

It is also the tale of one man's determination – Mahavir Singh, their father and coach who's pushed the girls very hard to turn them into world beaters.

The sport apart, Mahavir has probably achieved something which governments have failed to achieve – female emancipation. At one point in time this village had no primary health centre, only one senior-level government school and was notorious for its child marriages.

Let me sign off with the words: The imprint of the father, remains forever on the life of the child!

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