Can the fortunes of a village be linked to the Olympic success of a wrestler? Well, at least the 15,000 odd people living in the Nahri village in Sonepat district think so. A village that struggles to get potable drinking water, manages household work with just a two-hour electricity supply, does not have proper sewage lines and in the name of amenities has just one veterinary hospital to show, desperately wants Ravi Dahiya to return from Tokyo with a medal.
The quiet and shy Ravi, son of a farmer, is the third Olympian to emerge from this village after Mahavir Singh (1980 Moscow, 1984 Los Angeles) and Amit Dahiya (London 2012). But why do the villagers think that Nahri’s destiny will change if the 24-year-old Ravi wins a medal. Well, there is a small story behind it.
Mahavir Singh was asked by the then Chief Minister Chaudhary Devi Lal what was his wish after he represented the country twice at the Olympics and he requested an animal hospital in the village. The CM obliged and a hospital was established.
The villagers now have a firm belief that if Ravi does well in Tokyo, Nahri will get some spotlight and the government could gift some development projects to the place, where 4000 families live. “This village has given the country three Olympians. There is something in the soil of the land. We are sure Ravi will win a medal and with his success, the development of the village will also begin," said Sunil Kumar Dahiya, the Sarpanch of Nahri.
“There is no good hospital here. We have to go to Sonepat or Narela. There is no stadium. We have built a mini stadium but there is no mat, no academy, no coach. If there are facilities, the kids of this village can get better lives." The villagers have pinned their development hopes on Ravi but his success has much to do with the sacrifices and moral guidance of one man, his father Rakesh Kumar Dahiya. Rakesh has been toiling hard in the farm fields, taken on lease, for years and never let the struggles come in way of Ravi’s training.
Rakesh will himself carry milk and butter to Chhatrasal Stadium, about 60kms away from Nahri, every single day without fail to ensure that his son gets the best diet. The routine means Rakesh would wake up 3:30 am, walk about 5kms to the nearest Railway station, get down at Azadpur and then walk another 2kms to the Chhatrasal Stadium, where Ravi trained under Mahabali Satpal.
After coming back, Rakesh would work in the fields and it continued for 12 years till the COVID-19 induced lockdown halted the routine in 2020. Rakesh ensured that Ravi learns to respect the sacrifices his family has made. He narrated an incident when he made Ravi eat white butter that he had spilled on the floor by mistake.
“His mother made butter for him and I was carrying that with me in a bowl. Ravi titled the bowl to get rid of water and ended up spilling all the butter in the ground. “I told him that we manage his diet with great difficulty and you must be careful. I told him, you can’s let it go waste and he had to pick the butter from the ground and eat," Rakesh said with pride in his eyes that he taught his son a valuable lesson.
Ravi was six years old when his father introduced him to the sport. He would carry with him to fields, where his friend Hansraj ran an Akhada. “He has only dreamt of winning an Olympic medal since the beginning. He knows nothing else," said Rakesh.
Ravi’s uncle Anil Dahiya, who is a constable in Delhi Police, also shared how his nephew is so focussed. “One day when he was back home, I asked him to learn motorcycle but he refused, saying he does not need it. Well, he is a young guy but nothing interests him except wrestling. He does not want to buy new clothes, shoes, nothing, all he talks about is wrestling," Anil.
His consistent focus means that he is now a two-time Asian Champion. He booked his Olympic ticket by winning a bronze at the 2019 World Championship. While Ravi may be a shy guy but what he can’t tolerate is cheating and can be very aggressive.
“At 2016 Delhi senior state, his rival deliberately broke his right-hand middle finger. He was in tremendous pain. But he told me ‘competition main ab lad nahi payunga par chacha iss ko to hara k hi chhodunga.’ And he beat him before withdrawing," he said. The Nahri village also vouches for his father’s honesty and strongly believes that his good deeds are also helping his son.
In 2018, the wheat harvest in 10 out of Rakesh’s 20 ‘keela’ was burnt due to a fault of the tractor supplier. While other villagers extracted compensation of the tune of Rs 15000 per keela from him, Rakesh did nothing of that sort. “‘Jo hua so hua’, I could not demand money from him. And the villagers now think God has rewarded me by giving success to Ravi," he said.
Nahri has seen both Amit Dahiya and Ravi battle it out on foreign lands by using the batteries of their tractors. Ravi’s uncle Rajesh, who is an Assistant Commandant in the BSF, tells an interesting story.
“Since we would not have regular electricity supply, we would gather around the farm tractors and use the tractor battery to get current for the television set. We watched the 2012 Olympics like this on Doordarshan. “Now there are inverters and we also watch bouts on UWW website, using our mobile phones. We watched the 2015 World Championship also like this ," said Rajesh Only time will tell if Ravi will return from Tokyo with a medal but Nahri is waiting with bated breath.