NEW DELHI ~ Felicitations, gifts and garlands are raining over India’s six Olympic medallists this monsoon. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had announced a cash prize of Rs 1 crore for four of the medal winners who were from the state even before they returned home. Recently, he gifted an Audi Q5 SUV to each medal winner. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit doubled the reward money to Rs 2 crore for wrestler Sushil Kumar, who is from Najafgarh, earlier famous for being the abode of cricket player Virender Sehwag. Sushil is the pick of the Olympic heroes because his silver in London was his second Olympic medal, following a bronze in Beijing four years ago. He is the only Indian with two individual Olympic medals.
Inevitably, there is a race between institutions and individuals to honour Olympians so that they too get mileage. Not willing to be left behind, the three divisions that comprise the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) too decided to felicitate Sushil and wrestling bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt. Only that the mayors of all three corporations have been sparring over who gets to throw the party first. While the three corporations are still awaiting an official consensus, it seems that the northern division has managed to ace the race by collaborating with local market associations of old Delhi and organising a felicitation ceremony in Chandni Chowk. Thousands jammed the street, and Kumar and Dutt were given their gifts—three buffaloes, 100 kg of ghee and almonds for each.
The wrestlers seemed wary of holding the reins of the harried cattle. Area councillor Supriya Gupta, who organised the event, said the reward was in keeping with the tradition of feeding wrestlers with buffalo milk and ghee. “Old Delhi has a tradition of akharas and wrestling. It’s been years since anyone did us proud internationally, so this was a way of extending our love and blessings to the two boys,” she says.
Councillors of the other two corporations have been crying foul over the subterfuge by Gupta. But Gupta says there was no politics in the felicitation. “There is a proposal to organise an official event and the date is not fixed,” she says. “You cannot stop people from showering their love. The people of old Delhi, like parents, wanted to bless [the wrestlers]. What is better than gifting buffaloes for pure milk to keep them healthy?”▪