Indian athletes' helping hand continues to extend amid lockdown

Feeding stray dogs, helping migrants, and providing support to struggling athletes, India’s sportspersons are doing their part.

By Jay Lokegaonkar ·

As the nation continues to stay in lockdown in its efforts to flatten the curve and fight the pandemic, India’s athletes continue to find ways to help those in need.

Earlier this month, athletes likes Dutee Chand and Achanta Sharath Kamal were in the news, following up on the efforts of Dattu Baban Bhokanal and Lovlina Borgohain before that.

With the lockdown in India affecting the less privileged the most, many more have stepped forward to their aid.

Helping migrants reach home

Hockey player Anup Walmiki, younger brother of Rio 2016 Olympian Devindar Walmiki, has been one of the few on the frontline during this pandemic.

The 25-year-old Central Railways star, who is also employed as a ticket collector, was among those summoned to duty in Mumbai after the government sanctioned special trains to help migrants get home.

The forward has been working 12-hour shifts ensuring that the migrants inside these trains are provided with ample food and water for their journey.

“These people are the backbone of our societies,” he would tell the IANS news agency. “I myself know what poverty is and what desperation that brings, so you do what you can to help out.”

Feeding stray dogs

Another hockey player Jasjit Kular, who was part of the Indian hockey team that competed in the 2014 Hockey World Cup, has been feeding hundreds of stray dogs every day near his village in Jalandhar.

With highway food joints and restaurants temporarily shut owing to the lockdown, the strays that depended on the leftovers from these places were left hungry.

Hence, the 30-year-old joined forces with five of his friends and together, the group feeds approximately 500 stray dogs every day around the highway and commercial areas in Jalandhar. 

“It takes us around four hours in the morning (to complete the rounds). The six of us split up into three groups and daily cover around 25-30 km of road stretch,” Jasjit Kular told the Hindustan Times.

Jasjit Kular, who has played in 65 matches for the national side, and his clan buy bags of soya chunks and dog food and cook it themselves before travelling around the city to feed the dogs.

Generous donation

Young shooter Shivam Thakur, who has been selected to represent India in the next Asian Youth Games, has pledged a large portion of his earnings over the next three years to help the athletes that are struggling to make ends meet. 

“I have decided to give away 60 per cent of whatever I have earned so far through various platforms to athletes struggling in their battle against the pandemic,” Thakur told the Press Trust of India.

Shivam Thakur, who was a fast-bowler in his younger days but had to quit owing to a ligament injury, has been impressive in the local 10m air pistol events.

The 17-year-old Noida-native also plans to auction off a pair of cricket pads that were gifted to him by Indian all-rounder Hardik Pandya to further raise funds to help athletes.

A helping hand and a helpline

Another shooter, Prithviraj Tondaiman, who topped the trap shooting Olympic trials held in Delhi in March, has been working hard to provide essentials to those in need in his native Pudukottai, Tamil Nadu.

The 32-year-old spends the first half of his day practicing in his private shooting range before heading off to supply groceries and other essentials to over 350 families that are situated around his range. 

With the help of his family, Tondaiman has also set up a helpline in a bid to reach people living further as fast as possible. “The helpline will ensure that we reach out to people faster...  we hope to provide assistance to more people in the coming weeks,” Tondaiman told the Times of India.