A rheumatoid arthritis patient since he was three-year-old, Sangram Singh defied all odds by battling financial and physical battles, and went on to become the world’s best wrestler in 2012.
After defeating Canadian wrestler Joe Legend in the Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in South Africa last month, Sangram became the first Indian to win the title. He had signed a death contract for the championship (He’s the only Indian sportsperson to do so), absolving the organisers of any fatality during the last-man-standing fight.
In an exclusive interview with Nation Next, Sangram Singh spoke about his struggle as an arthritis patient for decades and his ambition to make wrestling a sport as popular as cricket in India.
You had rheumatoid arthritis and you were on a wheelchair for eight years, yet you became a wrestler. How was this life-transforming journey of yours
The journey was really tough. I hail from a very small town Madina in Rohtak district of Haryana. I was always weaker in comparison to other kids. I was very young, when I sensed pain in my legs, only to find out that I had rheumatoid arthritis, which was almost incurable. As a kid, I had a tough life. I couldn’t even go to toilet independently. We couldn’t even afford a wheelchair, so I was made to move on a charpai (four legged bed). I once went to an akhada (wrestling ring) for wrestling, where everybody started laughing at me. My mentor asked me what I was doing there, to which I replied by saying that I want to become a wrestler. He said that if I can become a wrestler, anybody can become one. It broke my heart. I felt inferior in comparison with my elder brother who was also a wrestler but my mother supported me through thick and thin. Whatever I am is all because of her.
In such a small town like Madina, it must have been difficult to get a good treatment. Were any medical benefits provided to you?
No medical benefits were provided to us and we couldn’t afford expensive doctors. We were in dire need of money but no one helped us then. It was only after I became a known personality, people came forward to help us. Doctors usually don’t recommend massage for arthritis patients but still my mother left no stone unturned to make me stand on my feet. She would massage my body with kerosene oil, mustard oil, etc. My recovery was completely through natural process. I consumed a lot of tulsi (basil), aamla (gooseberry), and dry fruits. I believe that medicines only reduce your pain; they don’t heal you completely. Only natural treatment can heal you from within and can help you regain your inner strength. Fighting with an ailment requires immense motivation and a never give up? attitude. I either win or I learn in life. There is nothing like failure in life. I believe that people should never lose hope or give up in life because no matter how dark the night is, there is always going to be a tomorrow. Despite having had a paralytic attack where I couldn’t speak, close my mouth or even stop my saliva from dripping, I’ve a come a long way today. I feel it’s my duty to return the favour of almighty by helping those in severe need. When I look back, I feel, had anyone helped us then, things would not have been so difficult for my family. I’m not a great personality but I make sure I help children, who have a desire to study. I recently adopted a school when I learnt that children there weren’t enrolling because of financial crunch. We all live for ourselves but what are we going to achieve by being so rich? We won’t eat ?gold rotis! You come empty handed in this world and leave empty handed. All one can do is leave a respectable name behind, for people to remember, by doing something good for others.
Not everybody knows your real name is Sanjeet Kumar. Why did you change your name to Sangram Singh?
Colors TV approached me for a reality show, where I learnt about professional wrestling. I was a bit apprehensive because I was new to the television industry and I had some wrong negative notions about it. I’m lucky to have met a lot of nice people here. My colleagues in the show said that my original name doesn’t suit me, which took me aback. I asked them to give me a new name and now the world knows me by Sangram Singh. My career took off after that, so I assume the names lucky!
Why did you quit your Delhi Police job?
I tried my hand everywhere possible for a decent living. I had a brief stint with Delhi police. I got a lot of respect there but later I had to quit because I couldn’t get timely leaves for my wrestling tournaments. I wanted to invest more time in wrestling. I wanted to pursue it with full dedication.
In between Delhi police and wrestling, how did reality shows happen?
Things kept happening with the flow. I did few wrestling shows like De Dhana Dhan, etc, which got me money and fame. My first big show was ‘Survivor India,’ where I met Payal Rohatgi. I was also offered the seventh season of Bigg Boss. I had initially declined Bigg Boss but then I had to pay my house? installments, so I went ahead with show, thereby becoming one of the finalists. After Bigg Boss, I did some bigger shows. Discovery channel also covered my life journey. I’m soon launching my own show that would generate a livelihood for many needy families. The show would be a motivation for people who are fighting physical and mental battles and how to cure themselves through natural therapy. TV and films are extremely influential as they are the greatest sources to impart knowledge. I’m doing a biographical movie on a wrestlers life. I’m glad that Salman Khanji and Aamir Khanji have done wrestling oriented movies, which would make the sport more recognisable.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi felicitated you for your Commonwealth Heavy Weight Professional Championship victory. How did that feel?
I was overwhelmed. Modiji said that I am a motivation for the countrys youth. Not only did I battle against the hardships of life but I also fought with rheumatoid arthritis in that condition. He congratulated me for overcoming a serious medical condition and gaining worldwide recognition as a wrestler. They’ve introduced scholarships in my name. Seventh standard syllabus has a chapter on my life journey now. I have a dream before I die; I want wrestling to be a popular sport in India. Indians are inclined towards cricket more than any other sport. I want to change this mindset.
You signed a death contract with the Commonwealth Heavy Weight Championship organisers.
It was a contract, which stated that if I died in the ring, it would solely be my responsibility. Frankly, it’s fine and I feel it was the media, which hyped it.
Your fiancé Payal Rohatgi was quite upset with you signing the death contract…
I respect her feelings but wrestling is my life. If you remove wrestler from my name, then who am I? Whatever I have achieved and wherever I have reached in life today is because of my passion for wrestling. It is my first love. When I was crippled, I dreamt of achieving what all I have achieved today. If not anything else, I always wanted to stand on my feet independently. And I’ve got much more than that because of wrestling. However, signing a death contract is easier than handling a girlfriend! (Laughs)
Is marriage on the cards any time soon?
I feel marriage? is just a word if you are really committed to a person. If you are gilded in love, marriage can wait. One should get married only when he/she is professionally stable. Right now I’m extremely tied up with my career so I don’t see marriage happening in 2016 at least. Next year may be! I have an upcoming show, a movie and my tournaments, so I need to focus on my career for now. I don’t believe in temporary relationships. I want to settle down with Payal, and she knows this since we have a great mutual understanding.
Don’t your films and TV shows hinder your fitness regime and wrestling?
For past 16 years, I have been eating post workout only. My fitness regime has helped me heal, and now I look at it as a way of life, so it’s always going to be my priority. No matter what, I make sure I work out twice a day. I don’t sleep for more than six hours a day. If you want to stay fit, you should eat less, work more and go the natural way.
Then how do you manage shooting for TV and films
Like I said, my first priority is wrestling. There is so much to learn in this world and I’m still learning. TV shows are a part of the learning process. I got cold feet before I did Nach Baliye, but I think I can now shake a bit. Besides my wrestling, I can do on one big show in a year. I’ll be soon launching my show; also I have a biopic lined up. I’m open to movies but I believe in quality work over quantity.
You’ve been also working on your wrestling academy…
I feel it’s my duty to reciprocate whatever I’ve got from wrestling. I want to take it forward as a sport. I’m initiating a sports centre at my village Madina, for young wrestlers. If I’m able to make a difference in few people’s lives, I’ll be content. I want to establish many wrestling academies in India. I don’t want any child to go through financial crunch like I did. I’m no big shot but I strive to make a difference in childrens lives.
Dharavi redevelopment to have dedicated areas for manufacturing: Devendra Fadnavis
Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that Dharavi redevelopment will have dedicated areas for manufacturing…
The Mah Deputy CM says that Dharavi is a great manufacturing cluster, has been kept in mind while planning its redevelopment.
As Dharavi redevelopment has been announced, doubts were raised on whether this locally evolved entrepreneurial hub will retain its spirit. In a chat on Sansad TV with Sanjeev Sanyal, Member, PM’s Economic Advisory Council and a writer, on an Economic Sutra episode telecast on Nov 6, the Deputy Chief Minister had made it very clear how he foresees the future of Dharavi and Mumbai.
Saying that his government worked on clearing all the bottlenecks, he adds, “We understood that unless we have a place to rehabilitate people, which is nearby Dharavi, this project will not take off. We found out that there is around 42 acres of land which belongs to the Railways. We approached the Central Government and told them that we’ll free up your land. We’ll buy your land and we’ll give you a share in the profit and we entered into a definitive agreement and now they have handed it over to us.”
“The Dharavi Redevelopment project will be the most unique project ever done. In fact, this redevelopment was visualized by none other than Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 but nothing happened – until 2014 when Modiji came and we started governing Maharashtra. The redevelopment will be no less beautiful than BKC. Dharavi is just not a slum but it’s also a great manufacturing cluster, so what we did was that while planning this scheme we have created areas for this entire manufacturing industry along with planning for the rehabilitation of the people. Right now, this entire manufacturing sector is informal, but after this and over time they will come into the formal sector.”
Watch the full interaction here: https://youtu.be/FNeTrm0v0dw
Also, with Mumbai undergoing so many infrastructural changes, questions have been raised about retaining the quintessential character of “aamchi Mumbai,” which apart from being the financial capital of India is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant cities.
Speaking on the land issues, Fadnavis says, “The usable space in Mumbai is very little. It has length, but has limitations on the breadth so taking into consideration all these problems we wanted to design a very robust system for Mumbai for commuters and for vehicles. That’s why the all the new Coastal Road, which will decongest the western side of Mumbai. It will be a ring road type structure along the coast and this Western Expressway carries 60 percent of the Mumbai traffic right, so all that traffic will be mostly accommodated here.”
Commuting in Mumbai is a killer and every day Mumbaikars spend a lot of time on travel. Saying that he wants to reduce travel within Mumbai from anywhere to anywhere to an hour, Fadnavis explains, “Our Metro three is a very unique 40 kilometers of underground Network, which will be the lifeline of Mumbai. It is estimated to carry around 1.7 million passengers per day! All this work will be finished in two or three years and I want that from any place to any place in Mumbai one should reach within less than one hour – that is the planning. We are also trying to integrate the transportation system. Right now, our Suburban Railway is the lifeline of Mumbai. This Suburban Railway carries around 9 million passengers. The new Metro Network which we are creating will be carrying around 7 million or 8 million passengers, almost doubling the current number.”
Adding to this, the Deputy CM says that the 22 kilometers of Sea Bridge that will connect us to the hinterland, “so we have Mumbai, we have new Mumbai and that will be the third Mumbai that will be a land mass which will be bigger than Mumbai with new Mumbai airport. I think the future growth of Mumbai is on that side!”
Pritish Nandy’s ‘spirit of Dharavi’ tweet sparks off poverty porn debate
Dharavi comments of former parliamentarian and noted media and television personality Pritish Nandy on Friday, kicked off a storm…
Is squalor for cameras, money more important than dignified living for the residents…
Former parliamentarian and noted media and television personality Pritish Nandy’s Dharavi comments kicked off a storm when he said on Twitter that Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slum, with an estimated population of 1 million, ‘is not actually a slum but a tribute to the great entrepreneurial spirit of the weakest and smallest person fighting for his or her livelihood in Mumbai. It is also a model in collective coexistence in one of the toughest cities in the world, where nothing else matters. Not caste. Not faith. Not where you come from. But trust and togetherness.’
While this may be true, what is equally true is the squalor and subhuman conditions that reign supreme in this slum. Netizens felt that Nandy, by romanticizing poverty in this manner, was only feeding poverty porn and tourism. Nandy clarified that he was seeking to keep the spirit of Dharavi alive by “researching the architectural grammar, the cultural history that builds integrated and interdependent societies like Dharavi that have survived and flourished over decades and make that the base for the new redevelopment plans. Not just look at the future but also build in the past.”
The Maharashtra Government had on November 29, opened the financial bids for Dharavi redevelopment project. While 3 companies Adani Realty, DLF and Naman Group had submitted bids, the Adani Group clinched the project with a INR 5,069-crore bid. The timeline for the entire redevelopment of Asia’s largest slum, with an estimated population of 1 million, might take close to 17 years, the rehabilitation of slum dwellers should be complete in seven years.
Fact. @gautam_adani has won the bid to redevelop Dharavi. What is crucial however is that the indomitable spirit of what has been often described as Asia’s biggest slum is retained and nurtured. Dharavi is not actually a slum. It is a tribute to the great entrepreneurial spirit
— Pritish Nandy (@PritishNandy) December 1, 2022
Anil Deshmukh’s bail plea on Dec 6; HC says plea should be heard on priority due to his ill health
The Bombay High Court said, as per prima facie, 74-year-old former Home Minister of Maharashtra Anil Deshmukh’s bail plea should be heard on priority basis due to the senior leader’s health issues. Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the CBI, said that when Deshmukh’s bail plea was moved on medical grounds, then a fresh medical report needed to be called for.
Singh said, “There is a compilation that has been given now. There are medical papers attached. We need to go through it. Even though this is not a bail application on merit of the case, it is still being circulated under medical issues. He is getting medical treatment as required. Moreover, medical issues are not static. We need a check on what his condition is right now.”
Deshmukh’s advocate Vikram Chaudhari said the senior NCP leader was being treated but has been suffering from several ailments that require constant treatment and care. Chaudhary said, ”He needs to be released. He is a chronic patient.”
Justice MS Karnik said that the court would hear the bail plea on merits. He said, “I am satisfied that we can proceed with the hearing on merits and give it priority. This is my prima facie opinion that priority should be given. One of the medical ailments (that Deshmukh is suffering from) is degenerative.” Deshmukh’s bail plea would now be heard on December 6.
The bench asked Singh whether he was ready to argue on the merits of the case immediately, to which Singh said he would require a week while Chaudhari said that he was ready to argue. However, Justice Karnik said, “We need to give them a fair opportunity.”