Mumbai boy Yuvraj Walmiki (21), the latest sensation to take the Indian hockey circuit by storm, is all set for his homecoming to the city from the nation's capital on Wednesday. Home for the young phenomenon is a cramped 16x16 square feet shanty in Marine Lines.
Walmiki, who showed nerves of steel when he smashed the penalty against Pakistan to give India a crucial 3-1 lead in the Asian Champions Trophy finals in China, has been basking in the glory of victory that catapulted him to fame. But not many know of his humble background, and the poignant tale of penury, hardship and perseverance that makes his newfound success all the more sweet. Walmiki's mother Meena (40) wants to pull out all stops and cook a lavish meal of his favourite chicken biryani and chicken fry, but the sum of Rs 1,000 she has set aside for the celebrations have already been depleted in purchasing sweets for acquaintances.
"I have asked his father to borrow another thousand from his employer and get the finest chicken and basmati rice on his way home from work. I have also reminded him to get extra packets of candles, as our home has not received power supply for 18 years now," said Meena. "He has made not only us, but also the entire nation proud. Our entire family will be going to the airport to receive him," the teary-eyed mother added.
Walmiki's family has been residing in the cramped quarter in the Neelkanth Niranjan CHS compound for four decades now. The humble lodging lacks a main door, with only a frayed curtain separating it from the world outside. There are no pipes supplying water to the family, and Walmiki's family members have to resort to toilets in neighbouring offices to perform their daily ablutions.
"My son was obsessed with hockey since his childhood. I would always tell him that education, and not hockey would help him make a living when he grew up, but he would contradict me, saying that he would put in all his best efforts in both arenas," said Meena.
An emotional Sunil added, "He would sleep under the open skies -- in the monsoons, he would be sheltered from the pouring rain by only a thin plastic sheet. He would study for his exams under a streetlight. He wouldn't miss a single practice session."
He added, "The society residents do not want us to stay in the compound, and have asked us to vacate the premises a number of times, but we have no place to go. We barely managed to educate our children, and had no surplus income to offer them any luxuries."
Walmiki's recent stint has made his obscure abode a popular destination for the rich and the powerful, who are scrambling to offer special treatment to the boy's family.Â A bouquet in hand, former BEST chairman visited the house on Tuesday, assuring the family that they would be getting power supply soon. A few local political leaders also did the rounds.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Walmiki said, "My family has suffered a lot. I want to do everything possible to make my parents and brothers happy. I couldn't have dreamt of anything better than hitting the winning goal against Pakistan. I am thankful to my coach Dhanraj Pillay and Robin Bawa for their support. I could not afford shoes, hockey sticks or a jersey, but they provided me with these bare necessities." Walmiki added, "I have been looking for better accommodations for my family, in places like Nallasopara and Mira Road, but everything is too expensive. One day I will fulfill my parents' dream of owning a home they can call their own, which has all the basic amenities that are absent in our present home. We have had enough ups and downs, but not anymore."
Coach Dhanraj Pillay said, "I was always confident of Yuvraj's talent, and felt that he deserved a place in the national team three years ago. I am happy that he has proved himself, making the country proud of him. I am aware of his financial condition, and empathise with him as I also hailed from a similar background. I have offered him financial assistance of Rs 1-2 lakh and have asked him to buy a house at Nallasopara or Mira Road."