CHENNAI: The girl with a fondness for sweets can expect some when she visits home. Swapna Barman burst into a yell of elation after the heptathlon final. Almost 6000 kilometres away, the sleepy locality of Ghoshpara in Danguajhar, a 14km ride from Jalpaiguri in north Bengal, was buzzing. Her parents Basana and Panchanan Barman were swamped by people of the neighbourhood. Some brought sweets, some burst crackers.
Both parents offered prayers to Goddess Kali in a small temple just outside their house. All they wanted was to speak to their daughter. “She had called a few days back, complaining of fever and toothache and said she was still determined to win gold. I was crying thinking of how long she has been away from home. We finally got through to her after midnight on the day of her triumph. She said she would be home soon,” Basana told Express.
The festivities carried over to Thursday. Relatives and well-wishers kept coming over. Politicians have visited their house. Media from across the country have been calling but the Barman family is still waiting to hear from the country’s newest golden girl.When asked about any special plans for her homecoming, Basana said, “She keeps telling me she has had enough of meat to eat. She pines for some home-cooked spinach. That’s what I will prepare. And obviously sweets. Chocolates and rasogolla.” The 21-year-old last visited home during Durga Puja in 2017.
Basana used to work as a plucker in the nearby tea estates, while Panchanan was a rickshaw-puller who suffered a stroke in 2013. They rarely had money to afford two square meals a day for the family of six. Swapna is the youngest of four siblings, after two brothers and a sister. Apart from being born with six toes on both legs, she has had to endure a multitude of problems, from bulged discs to knee and ankle issues.
“We could not afford nutritious food for her. I used to take her in my rickshaw for training. Determination and never-say-die attitude have always been her strongest suit,” her father added.A student of Kaliaganj Uttameswar Higher Secondary School, Swapna was first spotted by her games teacher. The Barmans thought maybe sports could be the gateway towards a job. “She was good in sports and studies. Her teacher said she could excel in athletics. She was also determined to prove herself and help the family.”firstname.lastname@example.org