Amid thousands of brick-walled rickety houses, Yogeshwar Dutt’s palatial bungalow in the little known Bainswal Kalan village, 20km away from Sonepat in Haryana, stands proudly like a monument.
In fact, since Saturday night, the neatly done three-storey house, prominently featuring the five Olympic rings, has attained the status of a landmark after Yogeshwar’s 66kg freestyle bronze medal winning feat in the London Games.
The building is symbolic of Yogeshwar’s uniqueness in the village which houses nearly 10,000 people.
Ask anyone in any corner of the village and he will guide you to Yogeshwar’s house through the narrow and swirling lanes. “He became popular after winning the Asian Games bronze medal in 2006. After his Commonwealth Games gold, he has become a household name here,” said Ajay Sharma, in his early 20s.
When you reach Yogeshwar’s house, his younger brother Mukesh and mother Sushila Devi welcome you warmly. Attending to the crew of all the television channels and thousands of well-wishers has not tired them yet.
Members of the household have been experiencing festive atmosphere since the time Yogeshwar bagged the medal in front of thousands of fellow villagers, thanks to a LCD television placed outside the house. Performance by a DJ spiced up the otherwise dull nightlife of the village.
Mukesh, a lecturer in Physical Education, was constantly busy thanking people on his mobile phone or giving interviews to reporters. “It is a proud moment for us – for the whole village, for the whole country. It’s a dream come true,” he said.
Yogeshwar had won his first major international medal (the Asiad bronze in Doha) just three days after his father’s death. Today, in the moment of glory, the family remembered him.
“It would have been different had my father been alive. He would have been over the moon,” said Mukesh, who vowed to develop his three-month-old son into a wrestler.
Sushila reminisced how she and her husband, both teachers, had dissuaded Yogeshwar from taking up wrestling. “But as a child he was very keen about wrestling. And today he has proved himself. His strong will power has taken him through,” said Sushila, after celebrating her son’s victory by participating in ‘sangeet’ and dance sessions in the company of other women from the village.
“He always believed in hard work and his sacrifice has paid off. It is a dream come true for me too,” said Sushila, “Now I will put pressure on Yogeshwar to get married.”
Sushila profusely thanked the Mittal Champions Trust (MCT) for supporting Yogeshwar when he was down with a career-threatening knee injury. “He was depressed at times. But he had the will to get over it. The (MCT) help was very beneficial for him.”
Master Satbir Singh, who taught Yogeshwar the early lessons in wrestling at the village akhara, underlined his ward’s dedication and dilgence. “When, in 1990, he came to me as a seven-year-old kid, I used to tell him, ‘You are too young. Do not train so hard. But he was amazingly focussed. I was hardly surprised when he showed results within a year.”
Sixty-one-year-old Satbir, also a popular Haryanvi folk singer, paid tribute to Yogeshwar. “He is very obedient. Even today he stays in touch with me. He is very kind and caring too. Once, after getting a cash award of Rs 25 lakh from the Haryana government, he donated some part of that money for the tsunami victims. He does some charities on a regular basis.”
Unknowingly, the large-hearted Yogeshwar has done a world of good to the sport in his area. “After his Commonwealth Games gold, one has witnessed a rise in craze for wrestling. Now, I am sure, it will increase further,” noted Jagbir Malik, the district sports officer of Sonepat.
Since Yogeshwar has earned fame for his non-descript village, the villagers of Bainswal Kalan are preparing to travel to Delhi and accord a befitting welcome to the most illustrious son of the soil when he arrives from London.