METRO PLUS

Pinning down foes

GOLDEN ERA Munuswamy in his hay days

GOLDEN ERA Munuswamy in his hay days  

For fitness freaks in the 60s, the name of Munuswamy conjures up images of a wrestler who pinned his opponents down with ease in the pit at the Railway Gymnasium

Known for his iron-like grip, Munuswamy used to make his opponents welt under pressure and dominated the bouts for over three decades. For him, wrestling was more of devotion than sport. With about 150 medals that he won at various State and National meets and three silver maces (a club-like armour), Munuswamy is considered a living encyclopaedia in wrestling.Under his guidance, the Vijayawada Railway Division hogged limelight for 20 years as he and his battery of disciples ruled all the inter-railway competitions. Munuswamy had no worthy opponent to unseat him from the pedestal, as he went on win the State championships in the welterweight category for 22 years consecutively.

Master wrestler

"I was the State champion from 1952 to 1974 in the 64-kg category. In 1954, I finished second in the senior national competitions, and I was selected for the world championship. But I could not take part in the world meet, as the Government did not come forward to bear my travel expenses," the master wrestler recollects.After joining the Vijayawada Railway Division as a typist in 1957, Munuswamy began learning the art of wrestling from the famous Nellore Kantha Rao, the wrestler-turned-film artiste. Since then, he himself began encouraging many youngsters in the 60s, and inspired wrestlers like Kandi Gangadhara Rao, K. Appa Rao, K. Kanaka Rao and several others to bag jobs in the Indian Railways. He also used to train the Railway Protection Force in the art of wrestling. "Many wrestlers got jobs in the Indian Railways due to their commitment towards the sport," he says. The septuagenarian describes wrestling as an ancient physical combat sport, in which two opponents attempt to gain control over the other through various grappling techniques but without actually striking at each other. Munuswamy says leading a disciplined life is essential to succeed in wrestling. He himself follows such a rigorous personal life. He rises early in the day and goes to bed by 9 p.m. "A good diet and good rest is of paramount importance to a wrestler to excel," he opines. He also says strength is an imperative ingredient in wrestling. "Stamina and strength decide the fate of the wrestler. While in the pit, wrestlers behave more like enemies, as their pride is at stake," he observes. Munuswamy is disappointed over what he feels is the continuing neglect of this traditional sport. "Youngsters are no longer using the wrestling pits properly," he says with a tinge of sadness in his voice. Retired as an office superintendent in 1994, Munuswamy seldom shrugs away from his responsibility of teaching a tip to or two to the budding wrestlers. As he says, that's what keeps him going in life.

J. R. SHRIDHARAN

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