In conversation with Azad Singh, a wrestler at Guru Jasram Akhada, Delhi

Q- Where are you from?

I basically belong to Aligarh, U.P. which is a famous place for wrestling. Some prominent wrestlers belong to Aligarh. It is considered as a hotspot for wrestling. Now I live in the akhada only. I also train students here.

Q- What kind of family background do you have? Does your family support you?

My father and mother are involved in the farming activities. I have two siblings. They are studying right now. My family supports me a lot. They were never against my wrestling. They support me emotionally as well as financially. They used to send me money every month.

Q- How do you manage to overcome your financial needs?

I have won many Dangal prize money like of Rs.1, 00,000, Rs.50, 000, Rs.21, 000. My family also sends me money for my diet and other expenses.

Q- Why have you put this Hanuman ji statue in front of your mat?

For wrestlers, Hanuman ji is an inspirational deity. He is so powerful and dedicating towards his work. For every wrestler, this work is the most important thing. Hanuman ji is a symbol of power and endurance which is a key factor for wrestlers. That’s why I have put this statue here.

Q- Is there is anyone else in your family involved in wrestling?

Yes, my father and my uncle both are wrestlers from UP. They have won ‘UTTAR PRADESH KESARI’ title many times. I am very inspired by them. They inspired me to join wrestling. In my childhood, I used to visit akhada with my father. It helped me take the decision to join kushti at my school.

Q- What is your educational background?

I have cleared 10th class from Aligarh school. I was not able to continue due to my career planning.

Q- Have you done wrestling at your school?

Yes, I was a champion of wrestling in my school. I have won GOLD MEDAL IN NATIONAL LEVEL WRESTLING thrice in my school. I have also won many medals in intra school sports championship.

Q- When did you decide to join this akhada?

When I was 17 years old, I joined this akhada due to the importance of this akhada in Delhi. A lot of wrestlers got selected in ASIAD NATIONAL GAMES, several were ARJUNA AWARDEE which is a major attraction of this akhada. I have visited many akhadas in Delhi but at the end I chose this akhada for my training.

Q- How’s your experience in this akhada?

This akhada worked as a transformer for me. It helped me to be a wrestler. Guru ji played a major role in my career. He was my ideal. He was a great wrestler which inspired me a lot. We don’t have any coach, still there are a lot of international and national level wrestlers. I used to train students here. We are all here to support each other and learn from each other’s achievements. We have to be very careful as a part of this akhada. We have to make our Guru ji feel proud.

Q- What are your major achievements in this profession?

I have won GOLD MEDAL IN DELHI STATE LEVEL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP twice.
GOLD MEDAL IN UTTAR PRADESH STATE LEVEL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP 4 times.
PARTICIPANT IN NATIONAL LEVEL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP 4 times.
NATIONAL GAMES PARTICIPANT 4 times.
Won ‘RAJASTHAN KESARI’ TITLE twice.
Won ‘UTTAR PRADESH KESARI’ TITLE twice.

Q- What are the rules for this akhada?

There are a lot of rules in this akhada which everyone has to follow-
• We have to call everyone ‘bhai’ here.
• We have a fixed time to sleep.
• We have different uniforms for mud and mat wrestling.
• Nobody can leave the akhada without the permission of a senior.

Q- How many boys do you train here?

I teach almost every student here. I specially train students preparing for national and state level. Vikram ji and I was the senior most wrestlers here. We both teach students about different techniques of wrestling, and also prepare them for the national and state level wrestling.

Q- Who is the most essential person behind your success?

I think my guru ji is the essential person for my success. He was our inspiration, our role model, our Godfather. He trained us so that we can achieve success in our field.

Q- For which upcoming tournaments you are preparing for?

We all here are preparing for village tournaments which we are organizing for our young wrestlers. This is going to be held on 3rd July in Alipur village which is near our akhada. We are organizing this event for the encouragement of the young wrestlers. In this tournament, wrestlers from different akhadas will participate.