Sunny's gesture lights up Bhengra

Sunny's gesture lights up Bhengra
The name Gopal Bhengra doesn’t ring a bell and why should it? After all he plied his skills in one of India’s most revered but one of the least glamorous sports – hockey. Hailing from a village called Vyur Gurai, some 55 kilometres from Ranchi, Bhengra represented the Indian hockey team at the highest level with distinction and played the Buenos Aires World Cup in 1978 when the Indians narrowly missed a semifinal spot. But once his playing days were over, Bhengra, the champion dribbler who would break defences of rival teams to score goals, was reduced to breaking stones in a quarry and sheltering along with his family in a house made of mud, straw and wood.

Bhengra used to receive a monthly pension of Rs 1475 after retiring from the Indian Army in 1979 but the meagre income forced him to crush 100 stones a day for Rs 50 to meet his and family’s ends meet. His life, however, changed for the better when Sunil Gavaskar’s initiative CHAMPS – an acronym for Caring, Helping, Assisting, Motivating, Promoting Sportspersons – Foundation began to provide him with a monthly stipend in the late 1990s. Since then Bhengra has been receiving a cheque for Rs 7500 every month.

A grateful Bhengra had been craving to meet Gavaskar, and his wish was fulfilled here on Sunday at the JSCA Stadium. “I am just so delighted,” said Bhengra after meeting the cricket legend who is here as a commentator for the third Test between India and Australia. “I have waited for so long for this moment, and I really don’t have words,” said the ace hockey player after presenting him with an embroidered shawl.

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