Tuesday, August 28, 2007


He was just 4 years old. His mother contemplated selling the kid for a sum of less than Rs.1000. Such was the poverty. The kid was in hospital where the doctors wanted to amputate one of his legs. In came a gentleman who took care of the kid and nursed him. The same kid displayed a talent for running great distances. No scriptwriter could have done better. The kid is Buddhia Singh and the gentleman is Biranchi Das.

For a state starved of sporting heroes, the emergence of Buddhia was something of a revelation. Biranchi, a Judoka coach made tall claims about the prowess of his prodigy. The boy was made to run nearly 70 kms in oppressive heat. The run nearly caused Buddhia to collapse after 65 kms and he was taken to a hospital.

The Government of Orissa stepped in to prevent the cruel exploitation of the little boy. Buddhia was subject to a number of medical tests and the doctors seemed unhappy over the stresses the frail body was asked to take. Immediately, the Government decided to stop the 500 kms race that Buddhia was to undertake.

The mother of the boy, the boy and the coach were not happy with the development. Even the little boy was ‘made’ to speak before the television cameras about the support provided by Biranchi to his family. The mother of Buddhia went so far as to question the right of the state to take such steps.

This made news and many news channels stepped in to present their side of the story. In the meantime, the boy and his coach went places and a number of ‘philanthropists’ assured financial support. A trust fund was to be set up for the upbringing and the training of the little boy.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the coach and the guardian angel of Buddhia was arrested on grounds of ‘torturing’ Buddhia in the name of training. After the arrest of Biranchi, his mother took the boy to home. Now Buddhia lives with his mother and two elder sisters in a Bhubaneswar slum.

This latest event again sparked off a fresh round of allegations and counter allegations. The same Buddhia who was so loyal to Biranchi now speaks in a different tone. Buddhia’s mother does not mince any words when she castigates Biranchi. Biranchi on his part blames some of the slum people for misleading the boy and his mother.

At the root of the matter is the money that was supposedly received by Biranchi on behalf of Buddhia. People who are close to the family allege that the coach siphoned off all of it, while Biranchi points out that all promises of financial assistance were mere promises. He also alleges that the self-styled elders of the slum want to earn from the talents of Buddhia. This may not be entirely untrue.

What is the wrong if Biranchi took some money? He was the person who provided help to the family and the boy in their time of distress.

What moral authority does the Government have to prevent such exploitation when child labour is rampant? Does the Government not have any other worthwhile things to do?

What about the news channels who took up cudgels on behalf of the boy and his coach?

One thing is pretty clear. Buddhia may not run again. In a few months, all of us will forget about a little boy who could run. In time, Buddhia may be lost in the slums working in some wayside teashop or an automobile workshop.

Sporting history is replete with stories of talented and promising athletes being exploited by family members or manipulative coaches and managers.

In any event, Buddhia is born to run.

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