VIJAYAWADA: Around 7 pm on Saturday, Ragala Madhu was busy getting a tent arranged in front of
his hut in the nondescript Stuartpuram village of Bapatla mandal in Guntur district. “People are swarming our residence to greet us,” said an excited Madhu, talking to TNIE over telephone.
Just a few hours before, his son, Ragala Venkat Rahul, clinched gold at the Commonwealth Games, becoming the fourth Indian weightlifter to do so.
“Since we live in a hut and don’t have enough space to accommodate the visitors, I am getting 50 chairs,” he added, even as the sound of fireworks being burst outside his residence drowned his voice.
“After all, friends and well-wishers are all we have,” sighed Madhu, who lost his wife a year-and-a-half
ago. It was then that Madhu, along with his children, had moved into the hut after selling his house and two acres of agriculture land for his wife’s medical treatment. He now cultivates paddy in 40 cents that he still owns.
Despite all odds, “when Rahul won a medal,” the elated father said, “I was glued to the TV the entire day. I was just praying for Rahul. I am extremely proud that he has won.” His pride, however, was not just because his son bagged the gold. “Whenever Rahul is given a medal, I don’t look at him. I look at the Indian flag behind him and listen to the national anthem played in the background. That is what makes me proud,” Madhu said.
In fact, Madhu was himself a sportsman. He recalled that he had won 14 gold medals in kabaddi, participated in four national weightlifting tournaments, and emerged as the ‘best player’ 300 times. His
three children too are chip off the same block.
“My second child, a daughter, is also into weightlifting and kabaddi. She has participated in eight national championships so far. My youngest son is going to participate in a weightlifting tournament in Uzbekistan later this month,” he informed.
Does he think their lives will change with Rahul’s achievement? “No,” he firmly replied. “When Rahul bagged a silver medal in the Youth Olympic games in 2014, I hoped things would change. But, four
years later, here we are, still trying to make our ends meet. I won’t say that the State Government has not helped. But the amount it had given is meagre compared to the rewards it showered on other players. Maybe the fact that we don’t hail from an upper caste doesn’t let the leaders help us much,” he rued.
The State Government a few months ago extended financial support of Rs 15 lakh to Rahul. Madhu belongs to Erukala, an ST community.
But nothing stops them from doing what they want.
“My children will continue playing for the country. We are not after money. Rewards or no rewards, making the country proud is what we want. That is what I told Rahul when I spoke to him after his win,” he said concluding the phone call, saying, “I have to make other arrangements for the visitors. Besides, I also have to go to the fields tomorrow.”