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A champion in dire straits

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FORLORN AND FORGOTTEN: Bir Bahadur, a champion footballer of yesteryear now eking out a hard living.
FORLORN AND FORGOTTEN: Bir Bahadur, a champion footballer of yesteryear now eking out a hard living.

A. Joseph Antony

HYDERABAD: Vehicles roar down Rajiv Rahdari, the highway leaving Secunderabad. Motorists let their engines rip, testing life in the fast lane. Few notice the push-cart selling `chaat', opposite the Lakdawala bus stop. Left by the wayside and to his fate is Bir Bahadur.

The stall's location may not be strategic, but clientele comes in the form of children from St. Ann's School nearby. Their chatter is cause for cheer in a life hardly brimming with joy.

Little do they know the `uncle' serving them played for India in the 1966 Asian Games at Bangkok.

Bahadur's forebears are from Dehradun, Gurkha blood flowing in him. But of the warrior race, there's little trace, gentle as he is with the hungry girls lining up for his fare.

Bitter memories

Twenty-two years in uniform often revives bitter memories for Bahdur. A paltry pension of Rs. 350 a month forced his son Rohit to enlist after school. The disillusioned youngster quit the army soon. When the media highlighted Bahadur's plight, relief came from Sunil Gavaskar's CHAMPS Foundation.

Keep the change, say compassionate customers who recognise the stalwart. When sustained support is the dire need, such sympathy is short-lived. Just as when Bahadur, for an hour or two, enjoys pride of place in VIP enclosures at major football events. Then he goes back to cleaning dishes soon after.

In his prime, a pile-driver tore the ball when it slammed the upright. Defenders dreaded thunderbolts from his right foot. Today, he's at the receiving end, kicked around by fate and apathy from all around. For those who wish to help him, he can be reached at beerbirbahadur@yahoo.com

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