A kabbadi player from Chennai slums becomes national star.
Mani used to play kabbadi in the slum where he grew up. He tells us it was the most popular sport amongst the boys in the slums, and they would play every weekend. "You don't need a big field or a ball or anything to play kabbadi. Just a whistle. The rules are also very simple," says Mani. "That's why I think it's so popular in the Chennai slums. There isn't much space to play, and people don't need to buy anything to play it."
Kabbadi, aptly known as 'the game of the masses' originated in India and has become a national sport. In 1990, it was included in the Asian Games and has since then become a regular discipline - the Kabbadi World Cup was held for the first time in 2004. It is a combative team game that ostensibly has its roots in recreational combat training. Two teams of seven players face each other, and take alternate turns in offense and defence. The fundamental idea is to score points by sending 'raiders' into the opponent's court, who must touch as many defense players as possible without getting caught, in a single breath. To make sure the player doesn't take another breath, he must chant 'kabbadi kabbadi kabbadi' as he moves; this word is Tamil and means 'holding of hand'.
"I used to play with my friends and classmates. We always lost in the tournaments," says Mani. "These days I don't have time. But everyone here loves watching the games. It's a big thing to do. Ladies, children, everyone comes to watch it." Mani says that on television and in the newspapers, everyone discusses only cricket and badminton. But kabbadi is a sport in its own right and should get recognised more. Especially because, as he shows in his video, those who prove good at it have a solid chance of making their lives better.
Avijit Adhikary is a journalist with nearly 8000 days of field experience till date. In the past two decades, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the media industry in India, with ripples felt in his region too. This includes the rise of digital media, the decline of print...