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Walmiki scripts his own epic

Walmiki scripts his own epic

Author: Bharat Sundaresan
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: September 15, 2011
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/walmiki-scripts-his-own-epic/846809/0

Introduction: From his humble household, Indian Hockey's new hero Yuvraj charts a fresh journey

Never ones to miss out on an opportunity, the entire gamut of the city's political parties have aligned themselves with the hero of the hour. On Wednesday, however, the array of posters put up by them for welcoming Yuvraj Walmiki act as a trail to southern Mumbai's latest poster boy's obscure and humble abode.

It is nothing more than a pump-room, slightly smaller than 100 sq.feet, situated within the confines of one of three commercial complexes that are lined up a few feet away from the Marine Lines railway station. An unkempt curtain acts as the door to what four generations of Walmikis have called home for over 45 years. The house has never had electricity, and a small gasoline lamp is the only source of light for the family once the sun goes down.

The Walmiki household, however, is decked up today like never before. Multiple bouquets are queued up on chairs placed outside the room, which doubles up as kitchen and the bedroom - they have to use the toilets in the adjoining buildings. And the walls nearby are resplendent with posters and more flowers commemorating the Indian hockey team's victory in the Asian Champions Trophy and obviously Walmiki's achievement too.

"It's almost like a marriage atmosphere. But I doubt whether so many people will come even for my wedding when it happens," says Yuvraj, who scored three goals including his conversion of the crucial third penalty stroke in the final against Pakistan.

But relatives - mostly distant - aren't the only ones who have swarmed the Neelkanth building compound, which acts as the family's front yard and is where Yuvraj and his brothers started playing hockey, since the wee hours of the morning, much before the oldest of the four Walmiki brothers landed from Delhi.

"Oh there have been people from various political parties, police officials, income-tax officers, mayors and many more who have come since morning. We had no clue about most of their identities," says mother Meena Walmiki, clearly exhausted after playing host to more people than ever before.

The beaming father, while complaining about the excessive number of sweets he has had to eat, calls this the best day of his life. "I drive a private car for a salary of Rs 6,000. But even my sahib, who is 90 years old, came here and blessed us and made me feel really proud," Sunil Walmiki says.

While Wednesday may have witnessed controversies regarding payments to the hockey team, it has been an extremely busy one for the Walmikis.

"We were stuck at the airport for 15-20 minutes, where there were people playing drums and felicitating us there. Then my entire family was invited to Matoshree, where we met Bal Thackeray and spent more than an hour with him. I have been hounded for television interviews, including one in the same building, and my phone has been ringing non-stop," says Yuvraj, fresh after a power-nap in the corridor of the neighbouring building.

The 21-year-old Walkmiki, who represents Air-India domestically and has played in the German league over the last two years, insists that his only dream now is to gift his parents a comfortable lifestyle.

"We used to study under the streetlights, and there are many days when I spend sleepless nights wondering about the kind of difficulties we have been through without light and water. We still have many loans to pay and most of what I earn goes into running the household. Lekin ab bahut andhera dekh liya. Abhi roshni ki taraf badna hai (we have seen enough darkness now and it's time to head towards the light)," he says.

But despite the unprecedented attention bestowed upon them, the Walmikis still have their feet firmly on the ground. "A lot of important people have come and congratulated us and made plenty of promises. It might last for probably one more day. Now let's see how many of them actually do stick to their word," says Yuvraj.

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