In a country where the faint stirrings, resounding echoes and silent consternations involving sport have been the dominant, if not exclusive preserve of cricket, an unlikely sport staked a claim for recognition and a clamour for reverence in the year 2008. When a young Adonis punched, jabbed and jived his way to a bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics, a transfixed nation was not only enraptured by the looks and locks of the young man, but was also enchanted by the type of work which a pair of gloves could accomplish! To employ a much used and abused cliche boxing in India had -arrived. But had it really?
Shamya Dasgupta provides a compelling answer and more to this absorbing question in his book “Bhiwani Junction – The Untold story of Boxing in India”. With a research that is meticulous, reasoning that is methodical and a prose that is meaningful, the author judiciously mergers context with content. The narrative adopted to chronicle the story of boxing in India in general and the town of Biwani in particular is an easy and seamless blend of prosaic matter-of-fact-ness and a dash of compassionate and artful expression. This ebb-and-flow of India’s tryst with boxing coaxes, cajoles and at times even coerces the reader into comprehending the call of the sport and the catastrophe of its administration.
The hospital/healthcare infested ‘district-cum-town’ of Bhiwani, home to the fabled “BBC” the ‘Bhiwani Boxing Club’ and the veritable hotbed of extraordinary boxing talent in India has been brought to life in this enlivening book. As the author reveals, Bhiwani is named “Little Cuba” not for nothing. This non-decrepit part of India famous for its earthy smells of dung and dust is the world’s most populous nation’s indigenous answer to Havana and Harlem.
As the reader is treated to a fascinating perspective of the accomplishments, aspirations and accolades of Bhiwani’s own sons such as the legendary Hawa Singh, Jagdish ‘Sir’ et al, he is also left wondering as to why in-spite of such prodigious talent and innovative training, India has not been able to capitalize on the hotbed of such ‘natural resources’/human capital. The quandary is resolved by the book itself which recounts the existence of an absolutely intriguing maze of stifling bureaucracy, simmering internecine conflicts between myriad sporting associations and unfulfilled political promises all of which contrive to stagnate the prosperity of this noble sport and rend asunder the ambitions of its unflinching disciples. Tracing the origins of unofficial boxing in India to the 1880s, the author weaves an enticing fabric that is the history of boxing in India. Like a formidable water body, events and years meander, twist, and tumble expertly negotiating many tricky bends and convoluted corners before finally culminating into a vast and tumultuous expanse of ocean. The exploits of legends such as P.L.Roy, Buddy D Souza and P.N.Mitter warm the innermost cockles of the reader’s heart.
I have with deliberate intent, desisted from setting out selected excerpts from the book, even though the temptation to do so was inevitable. I only wish to be the purveyor of good claims, if not an out-and-out endorser for the procurement of a copy! At the time of writing, the reputation of boxing in India has been enhanced manifold with the indomitable ‘Magnificent’ Mary Kom bagging a bronze at the London Olympics of 2012. Boxing’s clamour has now been transmogrified into a clarion call and there is no better place to decipher the merit behind it than to read Shamya Dasgupta’s eye-opener.
“Bhiwani Junction” at once provokes and pacifies; exasperates and excites in equal measure. It is a rejoicing of sport and a rebuke of its neglect. It is a riveting ‘ringside’ rendition of the frailties, fantasies and fulmination of a sport which has well and truly unshackled itself metaphorically, symbolically and probably, even literally.
“Bhiwani Junction” – is a knock-out punch!