Senior Editor at Wisden India & author, Bhiwani Junction
Senior Editor at Wisden India & author, Bhiwani Junction
Jul 16, 2012 | Closed
Why is boxing always associated only with Bhiwani and Haryana in India?
Chat with author & sports journalist Shamya Dasgupta on his book at 4pm this monday.
- pleae tell me the ways in which the book 'Bhiwani Junction' can be bought and read. Asked by: krishna
- Bookstores (depending on where you are, Krishna). www.flipkart.com as well - you get a good discount there too!
- Dear Shamya, I have read your book. I feel it is very well documented. Have you thought about another book? Do we expect to see more of you in book-stores? Asked by: Uncle Sethi
- Uncle Sethi - thank you. I have thought of many other books, but who knows whether I will ever get around to working on them?
- true.. if someone asks u why he/she read your book.. what will you say? Asked by: Akanksha Jain
- Hmmm, Akanksha, you're putting me in a spot, aren't you? If boxing interests you, if Indian boxers interest you, if the history and the socio-economic debates of boxing interest you, you can pick up a copy. Did you, for example, know that boxing was used as a tool by revolutionaries in their fight against the British? Bits like those might interest you too. It's also a nicely-designed book and costs very little - so that might help too!
- Hi shamya,i'd like to ask you that now indian coach gurbaksh singh is retiring,so what wil be the condition of indian boxers after it?? Asked by: amandeep singh
- Interesting question, Amandeep. Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu has done his job with great discipline for many years, but I think his main contribution has been that of a manager and not necessarily as a coach. We have good coaches in India. What we need, if Sandhu has to be 'replaced', is a good man manager.
- Shamya, I feel that there is no place for any other sport apart from cricket, in India. Do you plan on writing on other sports too? So as to try and garner a change in the system. India with its population can surely become a leader in Olympics sports. Views? Asked by: Dr Money Call
- Dr Call - well, if that's true then that's true. I work with Wisden India, which focusses only on cricket. That's not a bad thing, is it? If there is one sport which catches the fancy and imagination of the people, then there is nothing wrong with that sport hogging the limelight. If India starts doing well in other sports, chances are that these sports and sportspersons will also get promoted. Viswanathan Anand became India's first chess grandmaster in 1988. We have many today. Vijender Singh has inspired many to take up boxing. The population is there, it needs guidance, the right atmosphere and the right funding.
- could you please comment on private sponsorship vs. state sponsorship? Asked by: debo
- Debo: Sponsorship from any source is welcome for Indian Olympic sport, not just boxing. But having said that, a fair bit of money is handed out by the Sports Ministry for the national teams. Where that money goes, if anywhere at all, is anybody's guess. But anyway, that money is meant only for the best athletes in the country, the ones that go to the Olympics. To ensure that the athletes who go to the Olympics are better than they have been so far, private sponsors are a must. But then again, private entities will look at it as an investment. Would you invest good money if you were not guaranteed returns?
- Sir, Were you a boxer? And do you think introducing the sport in schools will only increase its popularity? Asked by: Jeetlal & Balleshwar
- Jeetlal and Baleshwar: Yes, indeed. It goes back to India not having a culture for sport. Boxing, and other sports as well, should be part of school for sure. A few schools in Calcutta and Bombay did have boxing. Do they still?
- I love boxing.. I have following it since 2008.. i wish all the luck to Indian boxers and greedily want 7 gold medals... what do you think Asked by: Akanksha Jain
- Well, Akanksha - seven medals, leave alone gold, would be a bit too greedy and probably too ambitious. Look at three, maybe four. Should happen. Not gold, but medals in general.
- Hi Shamya, Congratulations on Bhiwani Junction, while researching for the book which boxers story inspired you the most? Asked by: Ratna from Patna
- So many of theirs, Ratna from Patna. Vijender might be a celebrity who dances with glamorous women these days, but none of it happened easily for him. You should go to his village to see where he came up from. Akhil Kumar's is another very inspiring story. And, of course, Mary Kom. Did you know that she reached her future coach's club, cried herself silly and refused to leave till he took her in? He was worried because she was so tiny. Mohammad Ali Qamar. Dingko Singh, Zoramthanga. All incredible stories.
- I love Bhiwanu Junction your book. It is carefully researched and very very well written. You must have loads of unwritten stuff. Are you planning to write a second book on boxing? Asked by: Rupam
- Rupam: thank you very much. I would love to add to the present book, maybe double the number of pages. Certainly there is enough material for that. But do you think a book on boxing will sell if it's priced too high? Sales matter, no?
- Hey Shamya, congrats on this brilliant book! What are India's chances at the London Olympics? Asked by: John
- Thanks a lot, John. Fairly good chance actually. Remember India's best performance at an Olympics before this has been three medals in total - Beijing 2008. I think the boxers alone can match that or even top that in London. Throw in the shooters, wrestlers and archers (and maybe the tennis players if they can decide who they want to play with), and I think we are looking at between six and nine medals.
- Is the corporate sector putting in money in boxing? Asked by: Shuvo
- No, Shuvo. There are a couple of organisations - Mittal Champions Trust and Olympic Gold Quest - which are doing stellar work. And so is the Haryana government. Sponsors are coming in for the main Indian national team. But not much else. But, like I keep saying, the lot of many other sports is even worse.
- What was your best moment when you were working on this book and what was the most difficult? Asked by: Dhiraj
- Moment: Watching Vijender Singh win his quarterfinal bout in the Beijing Olympics, though I didn't know it would help the book four years on. Most difficult: getting the Sports Ministry and Sports Authority of India officials to answer my questions. Proved almost impossible in the end, Dhiraj.
- What is the present infrastructure of boxing in India? Asked by: Bulbul
- Bulbul: Difficult to answer that, like it is to answer any question that asks about all of India. It's superb in Haryana. The National Institute of Sports in Patiala is world-class. Some of the army facilities are very good. A couple of the Sports Authority of India facilities aren't bad. But most of the rest of the country is in a shambles. So yes, there are a few good facilities, but mostly they are fairly poor.
- Do you find it strange that the Indian state of Manipur is conflict ridden and at the same time leads the Indian march in sports? Asked by: Sara
- Strange? No, Sara. I think Manipur and some other parts of the northeast should have become India's strongest centre of excellence in sport. Like you said, the political problems have held the region back. If India is to one day become a strong sporting nation, it will have to be on the achievements of athletes from the northeast. Till that happens, India will probably have to live with three-four-five medals from the Olympics, though I predict about 8-9 in London.
- Do you plant to write on India street games? Asked by: Nidhi
- That's not a bad idea, Nidhi. In fact, I did consider it once - not just street games, but tribal and indigenous sports as well. Do I plan to write on it? Maybe not right now, because it will probably take a year or two of extensive travelling and research to pull it off.
- Now that you've written one on boxing, Shamya, how about looking at wrestling? Asked by: Laya
- Nothing against wrestling, Laya, but I am not a huge fan of wrestling. That is not to say there is anything wrong with wrestling, but I might not be the right person to do it. I need to be interested in the sport to do justice to its story.
- The sports of Wrestling,Judo,Karate,takewondo,of Asian origin is in comparison to BOXING much more dignified and also helps in self defence. Is that a reason for Boxing not gaining ground in the East ? Asked by: sundar1950in
- Sundar: I will have to disagree on the 'dignity' front. I don't think there's a sport as outstanding as boxing where opponents have no props to help them. Peter Roebuck, the legendary cricket writer, once wrote: All sport is boxing in another form. I think it all starts with boxing. And we'll have to check with a historian here, but I think boxing and wrestling were around a long time back, when our princes in Ramayana were training. Also, judo, karate, taekwondo don't seem to have gathered much ground in India either, have they? In any case, I like to think of these as martial arts more than sports.
- Boxing as a commercial sport is a large success in west. Do the boxers in India earn that much ?? Asked by: sundar1950in
- Sundar: We are talking about professional boxers in the west and amateur boxers in India. Amateur boxers will never earn as much as pro boxers - that's what the whole Cuban boxing story is all about, isn't it? India now has a pro boxing team though...if more and more boxers turn pros after their amateur careers are over, they will earn a fair bit. Also, today, successful - internationally - boxers and other athletes in Haryana earn quite a bit.
- What's your best memory when working on the book? Asked by: Mukut
- Mukut: The hours spent watching boxers over the years. Watching fights. Watching people winning and losing. And, of course, being in Beijing, ringside, when Vijender made history.
- What made you think about this book? Asked by: Arijit
- Arijit: Not sure actually. It just happened, I guess. Helped a great deal that my editor actually suggested the book. I had almost all the material ready. Guess it all just fell in place.
- Hi Shamya. Congrats on a very well written book. How does boxing compare with cricket. Any famous cricketer who is a boxing freak? Asked by: Jiten
- Jiten: Should have found out actually. I do know Aakash Chopra has read my book. But that maybe because he is very kind and usually doesn't say no. Boxing freak - not sure. Though I'm sure a match-up between Ian Botham and Viv Richards might have been fun, no?
- Did you want to become a boxer? Asked by: Rashmi
- Rashmi: As much as a chickenhearted Bengali boy does, yes. Which is to say that I liked the idea, but wasn't tough enough.
- Passionate about boxing???...have you learnt boxing?? Asked by: Lakshmi
- Lakshmi: Passionate - yes. Have I learnt boxing: Yes, I did actually. Years ago in Calcutta, because of the prompting of a couple of my Anglo-Indian friends who were small-time boxers. Though I was too chicken to get in the ring and fight.
- Can't Bhiwani junction be turned into a book with more photos? It is a brilliant book Shamya. How long did it take it for you to write this? Asked by: Ceaser
- Thank you Ceaser. Wrote it in a fairly short time, but the research - not necessarily for the book, but generally, during the course of my reporting - went on for close to 10 years, I suppose. A book of photos? Certainly. But I might not be the right person to do it.
- Are you planning to write about any other sport as well other than cricket..... Asked by: Sneha
- Well, Sneha, just finished one on boxing. Might want to do another on boxing someday. Cricket - let's see, not sure. Enough people much better than me are handling cricket. I have grand plans of writing one on handicapped sportspersons, but I'm not sure a publisher would want it. Would you buy a copy?
- Who would win in a boxing match: Mithun or Rajnikanth? Asked by: Chuck Norris
- You, Chuck.
- Shamya, how are the Indian boxing coaches? good? bad? Asked by: Jolly
- Jolly: Good in theory, not always so because of their insecurities and politicking. I have devoted quite a bit of the book to this... and it's difficult to answer the question quickly. Well, let me say that they are good on the whole but can be a lot better. At the same time, I think, the boxers have a better deal than most other Olympic sportspersons in India.
- According to you what are the top 3 boxing bouts when it comes to Indian boxing? Asked by: Pancham
- Pancham - sorry, not sure what you are asking. Ummm...I once saw Zoramthanga fight in Calcutta in the mid-1990s. He was special. Akhil Kumar's fight in the second round of the Beijing Olympics was outstanding as well. And, well, for obvious reasons, Vijender's quarterfinal winning bout in Beijing. These are memorable - if you were asking about three fights that are top of mind.
- I really enjoyed the chapter on women boxers. Perhaps you should consider expanding on it. It certainly merits a whole book. Asked by: Laya
- Thank you, Laya. Yes, I certainly think women's boxing in general and Mary Kom specifically deserve books. Will check if the publishers will let me approach them with another manuscript on Indian boxing!
- Are you in touch with the Indian boxers now that they are on their way to London 2012? Asked by: Chayan
- Off an on, Chayan. They were in India recently, and I spoke to a couple of them.
- What are the realistic hopes at the Olympics? A lot is going to depend on Boxing. Do you see the sport becoming more mainstream? Asked by: Dr Tumbu Datta
- 1. Three medals. Don't know what colour, but three, or maybe even four. Mary Kom, Vijender, Vikas and Shiva. 2. I hope so. But having watched Indian sport fairly closely over so many years, I don't see a dramatic change anytime soon. Haryana has set the ball rolling. If other states, and of course the sports ministry, can take the right initiatives - maybe.
- Of the 7-8 boxers that have qualified for the Olympics, who do you believe possesses the most potential to possibly make a dent in the international scene of boxing (besides Vijender)? Asked by: Vijay
- Vikas Krishan - most certainly. I am a huge fan of the boy. I am hoping for a medal from him, as well as Shiva Thapa, in London. But even if he fails this time, Vikas is destined for great things.
- What is the secret of Manipur's success? Asked by: Gobindo
- Natural athleticism, Gobindo. But i think the success could have been much, much more if it hadn't been for (a) the politically disturbed climate in the region, and (b) the isolation of the state (and the other states in the region) from the mainstream. If India is to one day become a great sporting nation - whenever that may be - it will probably be athletes from the northeast who will have to take the lead. I have always maintained this.
- What has the most unexpected outcome of having a book published been so far? Also the oddest experience. Asked by: Samit
- Samit: Don't know about 'a' book, but the book being on Indian boxing, there's been a fair bit of excitement in people I didn't expect. Guardian has placed me on their Worldwide Panel of Experts for the Olympics. No, I don't play the role of 'expert', but contribute with tweets and, possibly, blogs during their coverage of the London Olympics. It's been great so far, thank you. And it's helped because people - even friends - had stopped taking me seriously after I spent seven years working in the TV news industry.
- do you feel that boxers not from Bhiwani or Haryana may have a more difficult time? Asked by: devalina
- Devalina: To an extent, yes. I don't think it's the fault of boxers from Haryana. Bar the northeast, where political troubles changed the circumstances (but the Army has played a strong and positive role as far as boxing is concerned), everyone starts out on the same foot. What's changed things in favour of Haryana are (a) their natural athleticism and appreciation of sport as a legitimate career, and (b) the tremendous role the state government has played.
- Boxing is a rough sport. Do you think thats the reason we have more boxers coming from Lower/Middle class? Asked by: Napolean
- Partly, though I wouldn't say it in those words. See, if you leave out the sports which are meant for well-off people - shooting, tennis, etc - most Olympic sports in India are pursued by people from the lower financial classes. At some level, this is to get jobs because lots of government departments have sports quotas and that's what becomes the grand ambition. It's not very common for a young boy, or girl, from an affluent background in, say, Delhi, to pursue the javelin throw. Or boxing. Or wrestling. And even if someone wants to, the parents will usually say no. It comes down to India lacking a sports culture.
- Who is your favourite Indian boxer of all times? Asked by: Shreyas
- Shreyas: I haven't seen many of the greats who stopped fighting before 1995-96. It will probably have to be Dingko Singh. Of the new lot, keep an eye out for Vikas Krishan. He is outstanding.
- Sir, Is it because of climatic situation the boxing is mainly associated with Haryana or for that matter to some extent with Punjab? Asked by: Shyam Vadalker
- Shyam Vadalker: Climate must be part of it, could be something in the culture as well as food habits. Youngsters in Punjab and Haryana are tougher than those in many other parts of the country. Having said that, youngsters in the northeast as well as up in the mountains are strong and athletic. But I suppose Haryana and Punjab are closer to the mainstream, and that's why they get more help in channeling their athleticism than some others. There is a difference between athletes from Punjab and athletes from Haryana though. Usually, if you have a Haryanvi athlete and a Punjabi athlete of the same gender and same height - in boxing - the Punjabi will be slightly heavier. This could be due to food habits.
More chats with:Shamya Dasgupta
Senior Editor at Wisden India & author, Bhiwani Junction