Behind every successful daughter, especially in our country, rumbles a saga of sacrifice, sweat, and toil by her family as well. Divya Kakran, a female wrestler and bronze medalist at the Commonwealth Games, 2018 shares a similar story that must be retold
It was 12.45 in the afternoon on Saturday (April 21) when we reached East Gokalpur, Loni border near Delhi in search of Divya Kakran’s house.
It was difficult to find the address of Divya’s house in the bylanes of East Gokalpur. After some time of desperate searching, finally the Organiser team managed to reach her house. But one thing that was striking my mind consistently was, “Is this the place where a Commonwealth Games medalist lives”? Today, at the age of 19, she is one of the brightest stars in the sky of Indian women’s wrestling. However, view of her domestic conditions is sufficient to suggest that her journey was gritty one.
Divya belongs to a family of wrestling enthusiasts. Her father, Suraj Kakran tried to earn a name for himself in wrestling but he failed to do so. Father of two sons and one daughter always wanted to fulfill his dreams and that’s why he wanted his son Dev to pursue his career in wrestling. But when his daughter started showing potential, he became sure that it was her daughter who could make his dreams possible.
“Divya was not interested in her studies from beginning. Most of the time she spent in playing. She showed interests in wrestling when she was just five, so I started taking him along with her brother Dev to akhada. Divya was a quick learner and soon became a better wrestler than her brother.” said Divya’s father Suraj.
The Saga of Struggle
It was not easy for Divya and her father Suraj as nobody was in favour of letting Divya choose the sport of wrestling. The decision received much opposition from family to society. However, Divya’s father knew that Divya could be a better wrestler.
The problem did not stop here. When Suraj took her to the akhada for practice, nobody was ready to allow her to practice in the akhada. For a young girl, there were not many chances in local wrestling competitions too. “I started wrestling at early age. When my father decided to take me for wrestling. Everyone opposed my father’s decision. Even my uncle and relatives had a heated argument with my father. My dadi (grandmother) used to say, “Agar haath paaw tut gae to koi shaadi bhi nahi karega (nobody will marry you, if you meet some grave injury). Everybody used to say wrestling is men’s game”, Divya remembered.
She started accompanying her elder brother Dev to the Rajkumar Goswami Akhara, a few lanes away from Divya’s rented home in Gokalpur. Divya’s father shared the story in detail and how she impressed Ashok Goswami, son of the venerable wrestler, Rajkumar Goswami, “She used to follow other wrestlers. Over time, she was able to match the standard of other wrestlers and one day she performed around 2,000 baithaks in one session that surprised Ashok Goswami ji. And that was the moment he decided to train her despite everyone’s objection.”
“In 2010, Ashok ji began training her seriously. It must not have been easy for him to agree to train Divya. A lot of wrestlers objected that it was not acceptable but he persisted. Within a few months, Divya gave the result and had won her first medal at a School competition”, said Divya’s father.
“No coach was ready to train me but it was Ashok Goswami ji who found talent in me and decided to train me, primarily at his home and then he took me to the akhada. “If Alok sir had not been there, it would not have been possible for me to be a wrestler”, Divya said.
- Bronze Medal in Commonwealth Games 2018
- Silver Medal in Asian Championship 2017
- Gold Medal in Commonwealth Championship 2017
Having faith in her daughter"s ability, Suraj decided to make Divya wrestle with boys, the decision which he clearly doesn’t regret today. “I still remember my first victory when I defeated a boy in dangal and received a sum of Rs 3000” said Divya. “The results were surprising for all at first, but became a routine. Later the organisers also interestingly started allowing me to fight against the boys as the prospect of a girl wrestler challenging and pinning boys was a novel one for all the audience. I used to overcome my opponents very easily. The victories rewarded handsomely as the spectators motivated me too. And then earning through wrestling in dangals became a part of our family’s income” Divya narrated.
While she earned money winning competitions, her father did his bit by selling langots (the cotton loin-cloth that all Indian wrestlers wear) outside the wrestling venue. Suraj said, “It was Divya who used to fight dangal and get money. We managed to get money through her fights because people were keen to see a girl fighting against the boys. And I used to sell langots outside the stadium or near the akhadas. My wife and Divya’s mother Sanyogita would stitch langots whole night so that we could run our family and provide a proper diet to Divya”.
One cannot believe that a player that brought laurels to the country, has been living in a rented house for so long. “We have been living here since long on rent because we cannot afford to buy a house. The situation was so bad at time when we had no money to run our family and we didn’t have much to eat. So, we had to fill our stomachs with water only but Divya never complained and continued wrestling. We did not afford all the necessary things like dry fruits, milk etc. which are required for a wrestler”, said Divya’s father Suraj.
Before Divya Kakran clinched medals at the Asian Championship last year, she earned the reputation as the girl who had comfortably defeated the boys at various dangals. It didn"t take long for people to take notice of her talent. As Divya made her transition from mud pits to mats, she emerged as one of the most promising young talents in the sport.
On being asked about turning point of life, she said, “Winning gold medal at the Bharat Kesri Dangal in Bhiwani, Haryana last year was a morale booster moment for me as I had defeated Geeta Phogat, a well-known face of wrestling and a player with a high standard. That match gave me a different confidence.”
On shifting from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh, Divya said, “Delhi doesn’t provide anything. I have medals at national and international levels but I couldn’t get anything in return. So I decided to wrestle from Uttar Pradesh. Atleast there are cash rewards for medal winners. Shifting to Uttar Pradesh brought required results as winning medals brought in cash rewards. Even during a meeting with Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, he assured me of his assistance and gave me his personal assistant contact but no help was never given from his side”, Divya said.
“On many occasions I tried to get a job in State departments as other wrestlers do. But the job was never offered to me as I do not have any big contacts or recommendations. I know many junior fellows who have not achieved anything for the country but still have managed to get government job” said Divya on financial condition.
“I must appreciate Haryana for the way the State Government is supporting the players. It is only because of the support and positive conditions that so many players are taking up sports as a career and doing well. Rest of the States especially Delhi also should learn from Haryana”, she opined.
Big Setback for Divya
After her first silver medal at the Asian Championships in 2017, Divya became the third Indian wrestler, after Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik to win a silver at the senior Asian Wrestling Championship. But soon Divya had to stop wrestling. One day she got a severe pain in her stomach. After consulting the doctor she came to know that stone had been detected in her kidney. “I had to pay regular visits to the hospital. For over three months, I went to AIIMS. It was really a bad time for me as I had won a medal in Delhi and was hoping to go to World Championships in Paris but because of the stone in kidney I missed the championship that affected me badly. At that time I was feeling depressed,” recalled Divya.
Ardent devotee of Sri Hanuman
When Organiser team visited her house, her father said that Divya had gone to the temple and would be back in half an hour. When asked about her visit to the temple, Divya replied, “I am an ardent devotee of Sri Hanumanji and always pray to him to keep me away from being egoistic. I gather inspiration and power from Him to fight. I also get positive vibes. I always feel that Hanumanji is with me”.
“Dev Bhaiya is my Inspiration”
There has been always a person behind somebody’s success and in case of Divya, it is her elder brother Dev. “I have a very supportive family. My elder brother Dev used to motivate me everytime. It is the result of his hard work and dedication to achieve this all. He is the source of my being here today”, Divya said.
While narrating the story of her childhood days, she became emotional and said, “Our financial condition was not good. It was difficult for my father to shoulder the nutrition of two wrestlers. That is why Dev Bhaiya decided to quit wresting. He also left his studies to train me”.
Reflecting back at her past, there was a time when she was told that she won’t be able to achieve any success, where as she has made her nation proud, Divya explained. “Those who discarded and demotivated me once, are now using my name and feeling proud in saying that they are associated to me. All of this is happening because of the support of my family that allowed a daughter to play.”
Divya’s Message to the Society
Divya appealed through the Organiser that, “No girl is weak and she can do anything. So, please don’t abort daughters. People should start accepting the fact that the girls can achieve as much as the boys. Let’s bring the change.”
“Had my mother killed me in her womb, I wouldn’t have achieved all this. Had PV Sindhu, Mary Kom, Geeta Phogat and so many others been killed in their womb by their mothers, who would have won all these medals for the country?” she questioned.
“I am saying this all because I have faced such problems. Parents should start motivating their daughters to take up sports as career. Like men, women too can achieve a lot in the world of sports. Look at Sakshi Malik, Sania Nehwal and many more. Only the daughters had brought laurels for the Country in the Olympic last years also. Never give up, be brave, stay strong and you will win!” said Divya confidently.
Olympic is the Target
On being asked about her future planning, Divya said, “I have not that much experience and playing at Commonwealth Games would be a big thing for me. I have given my 100 per cent that led me to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.”
Divya said that her prime target is to win Gold in Olympics 2020 and in Asian Championship scheduled next year in Delhi. I want to win the gold medal at the world championships and I am going to work very hard for it.
“It’s a proud feeling for all of us. We never imagined of this. I am really thankful to God”.
— Sanyogita, Divya’s Mother
“Our financial condition was not good. It was difficult for my father to shoulder the nutrition of two wrestlers. That is why Dev Bhaiya decided to quit wresting. He also left his studies to train me”
— Divya Kakran
“It was Divya who used to fight dangal and get money. And I used to sell langots outside the stadium or near the akhadas. Divya’s mother Sanyogita would stich langots whole night so that we could run our family and provide a proper diet to Divya”
— Suraj, Divya’s Father