At the age of 7 , He is the youngest to scale the Mountain Kilimanjaro …

He just wanted to see some snow. But he got much more than that.
Samanyu, all of 7, scaled Africa’s loftiest peak and proved that no dream is impossible.
And that age is just a number.
Rediff.com‘s Divya Nair speaks to the mini mountaineer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMAGE: Samanyu Pothuraju at Uhuru peak, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
All photographs: Kind courtesy Samanyu Pothuraju/Boots and Crampons

On April 2, 2018, when Samanyu Pothuraju, 7, from Hyderabad, was woken up at 3 am by his expedition leader Bharat Taminneni, he didn’t want to wake up.

He begged, “It’s too cold outside. I don’t want to go. Please let me sleep.”

It was the very last leg of their ascent to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro so Bharat would not give in.

Recalls Lavanya Krishna, Samanyu’s mother, “Finally, Bharat told him that if he reached the summit, his favourite (Telugu film) hero Pawan Kalyan would (surely want to) meet him.”

Mention of Pawan Kalyan did the magic.

Samanyu woke up with a start.

Eight odd hours later that day, at 11.52 am, to be precise, little Samanyu made it to the top of Uhuru, the highest point of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. And clinched a world record.

At 7, Samanyu is the youngest person in history to scale this peak, 5,895 metres above sea level.

But the Class 3 student, who “loves karate, computers and math,” did not have the faintest idea about the significance of his journey.

“I was wearing a thick jacket and gloves. My legs were paining, but I was happy,” Samanyu tells Rediff.com from Hyderabad.

Last year he was one of the youngest to reach the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal.

What inspired him to go to Africa?

Mount Everest actually.

Says Lavanya, who accompanied Samanyu till Kilimanjaro’s second base camp and not beyond, “When we reached the base camp of Mount Everest, some months ago, he (Samanyu) was disappointed that he couldn’t see much snow.”

“When I told him about Kilimanjaro, he asked me if there would be snow and if he could touch it. I said yes. He said he wanted to go and see the snow.”

For Lavanya, a bank employee who quit her job to take care of her children (Samanyu’s elder sister is 13), sending her seven year old to the top of Kilimanjaro wasn’t an emotional decision.

It was about letting Samanyu have his dream.

She consulted Raji Thammineni of Boots and Crampons, a Hyderabad-based adventure logistics company, to find out how safe the journey was.

“Raji is a friend and she advised I first send Samanyu to a training camp to see if he was fit to go.”

Samanyu passed the camp last year with with flying colours.

“He could climb 50 steps up and down with ease, trek to mountains and even made it to the Everest base camp in October 2017,” says Lavanya.

In November, Samanyu signed up with Boots and Crampons to prepare to scale Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

In addition to his training, Lavanya helped her son get mountain ready by showing him a video of the terrain daily.

“He saw how people climbed it in different situations — rain, sun, snow, etc.”

Samanyu was keen to see snow. But he also wanted to see East Africa’s famous blue monkeys.”

“He saw three blue monkeys,” Lavanya says.

Lavanya and Samanyu flew to Tanzania on March 27.

“It was supposed to be summer. When we reached it was raining and snowing. My head was paining on reaching the second base camp, so I was asked to rest,” says Lavanya.

The next climb, from the second base camp to the last camp, took approximately 10 hours.

The final stretch from the last camp to the summit was equally long. But Samanyu finished it like a pro, says Lavanya.

‘It required meticulous planning to achieve this mission. We took all the care and precautions to keep the child safe and help him realise (the importance) of his mission to the summit of one of the most challenging mountains in the world,’ Bharat and Raji posted on Facebook about Samanyu’s achievement.

‘Master Samanyu fought bravely with different terrains — rainforest, moorland-rocky landscape, Alpine desert and crater rim — before summiting this wonder of the world. We are extremely proud to support Master Samanyu’s achievement which brought laurels to our country,’ the post added.

The sacrifices

To prepare for Africa, Samanyu had to wake up early and religiously maintain a schedule so he could balance school, extracurricular activities and mountaineering.

“He’d wake up at 5 am and go for his karate classes followed by cycling. After school, he’d train for mountaineering,” says Lavanya.

Samanyu had to follow a strict diet. Not too much sugar. No ice cream.

“I had to eat canned food,” Samanyu tells Rediff.com. “It was tasty though.”

“After we climbed down, they gave me ice cream. I was very happy.”

What’s next

His next challenge?

“I want to do the 10 peaks challenge in Australia.”

Turns out none of this has affected his academic performance: Samanyu, who studies at the Bolton School in Hyderabad, scored over 95 per cent in his last examination.           

IMAGE: Samanyu holds up a printout with Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s image at Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro.

Lavanya and Krishna spent Rs 15 lakhs funding their son’s expedition, but they feel helping Samanyu attain his dreams was their most important mission.

Here’s their message to parents: “Never stop your child from dreaming big. You can guide her /him on what is right and wrong. But support their dreams as much as you can.”

Samanyu is now waiting to meet Pawan Kalyan, as promised. His parents have tweeted the Telugu superstar about their son’s wish to meet him.

Hey, Pawan, if you are reading this feature, please do give lil’ Samanyu a call.

http://www.rediff.com

Natarajan

 

 

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The Secret of Boxing icon…Mary Kom”s Success….

‘If I am super fit till 2020, I will compete but if I am not fit I will not.’                               

IMAGE: MC Mary Kom celebrates with her coaching staff after winning the Commonwealth Games gold medal. Photograph: PTI

Almost every medal that is there to be taken is in her kitty but M C Mary Kom says she still trains like a maniac, the latest result of the regimen being a gold on debut at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Saturday.

The 35-year-old mother-of-three, who has five world titles and an Olympic bronze medal, is seen as a sporting icon not just in India but also in other countries.

Crowned Asian champion just months ago, Mary Kom added the light flyweight (48kg) Commonwealth crown to her tally.

“The secret to my success is my fitness and I am very quick. I plan well before bouts. I am lucky that I can catch my opponents within seconds, I am able to read them very quickly,” a giggling Mary Kom said at the end of her CWG campaign.

“I don’t have injuries, all I have is minor issues like cramps sometime,” she added.

And the secret to her fitness levels and to an extent her calm demeanour in the ring is a training regimen that she refuses to let go even one day.

“When I decide something with my head and heart than even my husband cannot stop me. He sometimes tells me to take it easy after competition but I can’t help it,” she said.

“I have to train to keep myself calm. It’s a a strong urge, it’s a habit and training makes me happy. When I don’t train I feel sick sometimes,” she added.

But despite the high fitness levels, she wouldn’t commit on whether the outlandish possibility of a 2020 Olympic appearance is on her mind.

“2020 is difficult to say, but I will try my best. 48kg is not there and I will have to put on weight to be in 51kg which is never easy. If I am super fit till 2020, I will compete but if I am not fit I will not,” said the accomplished boxer.

Elated at being India’s first woman boxer to claim a Commonwealth Games gold, Mary Kom said scripting history makes her happy.

“I have won everything and all of my medals are very important. Do I need to say more? Which other boxer can claim that, now I would not be scared of anyone. I am very happy that I created history. I have got everything,” she said.

“I still think about Olympics gold but other than that I have got everything. Even in Olympics, I do have a medal. I haven’t left out anything,” she signed off.

Source……..www.rediff.com

natarajan

        

 

At 15, Anish Bhanwala is India’s youngest C’wealth Games gold medallist….

Haryana lad wins men’s 25 metres rapid fire pistol at Commonwealth Games with a new Games record                                                         

Shooting – Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – Men’s 25m Rapid Fire Pistol – Finals – Belmont Shooting Centre – Brisbane, Australia – April 13, 2018. Anish of India poses with his gold medal. REUTERS/Eddie Safarik – UP1EE4D0DRM4H 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anish Bhanwala made history on Friday, becoming India’s youngest gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.

The 15-year-old achieved the feat after firing his way to the gold medal with a Games record in the men’s 25 metres rapid fire pistol event at the Belmont Shooting Centre.

The Haryana lad shot down Australia’s David Chapman’s 2014 Glasgow Games record of 24 in the final with a score of 30, which included four series of five each.

The youngest in the six-man final round, he showed nerves of steel and led the more experienced marksmen through the event to emerge deserving champion.

Australia’s Sergei Evglevski claimed the silver with a score of 28, while the bronze medal went to Sam Gowin (17) of England.

Neeraj Kumar, India’s other entrant in the event, was the second shooter to be eliminated in the final after a shoot-off after scoring 13.

In winning the gold, Anish bettered the record of team mate Manu Bhaker, who had become the youngest Indian Commonwealth Games gold medallist earlier this week when she won gold in the 10 metre air rifle final.

Speaking about his feat, he said, “I’m very excited that I became the Commonwealth champion. I am the youngest athlete from India to win Commonwealth gold at 15.”

On his next competition and plans to celebrate, he added: “Next are the World Championships (in South Korea) and Asian Games (Indonesia). I will celebrate with my coach.”

In the Qualifications, Anish scored 580 to finish on top while Neeraj was second best with 579.

Anish scored 286 in stage 1 and 294 in Stage 2 qualifying, while Neeraj had 291 in Stage 1 and 288 in Stage 2.

Tags: Anish BhanwalaNeeraj KumarDavid ChapmanManu BhakerSam Gowin

Source….www.rediff.com

natarajan

 

Anna Creek… A Cattle Station in Australia…Bigger than Israel !!!

In Australia, cattle stations—which is the equivalent of an American ranch—tend to be unimaginably large, so large that some of them are bigger than some European and African countries.

Take Anna Creek Station, a well known cattle station in South Australia, near Simpson Desert between Coober Pedy and Lake Eyre. This station covers nearly 24,000 square kilometers. By comparison, Israel is barely 21,000 square kilometers, and the biggest ranch in America is just over 3,300 square kilometers. In fact, there might be close to a hundred cattle stations in Australia that are bigger than the biggest American ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia’s cattle stations are huge in size because of the continent’s climate. Most stations are located in the north and the central regions of the Australian Outback, where the climate is so dry and the vegetation so sparse that a large amount of country is needed to support enough cattle to make a living. Even a cattle station as large as Anna Creek Station normally runs about 17,000 animals during a good season.

The Anna Creek Station was bought by Sir Sidney Kidman, Australia’s so-called “cattle king”, who owned large areas of land across Australia during his lifetime. Kidman was thirteen when he ran away from his Adelaide home in 1870 with only 5 shillings in pocket and a one-eyed horse that he had bought with his savings. His teen years, Kidman worked as a drover, stockman and livestock trader, and made money supplying services to new mining towns springing up in outback. Eventually he had saved enough to buy his own station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sir Sidney Kidman

Kidman began gobbling up one estate after another until he was the biggest landholder in the world by World War I. At one point, the size of Kidman’s properties exceeded the size of the entire United Kingdom. His family still owns more than 10 million hectares, or about three-quarters the size of England. With a herd of 185,000 cattle, S. Kidman & Co is one of Australia’s largest beef producers.

There are at least nineteen cattle stations in Australia whose size exceeds 10,000 hectares. Four of them exceeds 15,000 hectares. These cattle stations are so large and the grazing area so spread out that it takes weeks to round up all cattle during the mustering season. Back in the old days, cowboys used to ride out in horses gathering up cattle. Today light aircraft is used for spotting animals which are rounded up by stockmen on trail bikes.

Because of the remoteness and size of Australian cattle stations, life is very isolated. The next human settlement is often a day’s drive away. So these stations function like small towns with schoolroom for the kids of the owners and workers, a small general store to supply essentials and possibly an entertainment or bar area. Electricity is typically provided by generators or solar cells. Internet and television is provided by satellite.

Anna Creek Station is currently owned by Williams Cattle Company, after it acquired the property from S. Kidman & Co in 2016.

Bonus fact: The name “Kidman” and “Australia” may remind you of actress Nicole Kidman. The connection is more than a coincidence—Nicole Kidman is actually a descendant of Sir Sidney Kidman.

Photo credit: Planettrekker/Flickr

Source ::::: Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com

Natarajan

 

 

 

 

 

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How Sivalingam battled pain to snatch another C’wealth gold….

‘I had no hopes of winning a medal after I injured my thighs during the National Championships while attempting 194 kg in clean and jerk. ‘

‘Even now I am competing at less than ideal fitness, but I am glad that was enough to get me a gold.’                                                                                                                                       

Defending champion Sathish Sivalingam (77 kg) claimed India’s third gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on Saturday, emerging triumphant despite having given up podium hopes after his injured thighs made even routine things like sitting painful.

The 25-year-old Indian lifted a total 317 kg (144+173) and was so ahead in the competition that he forfeited his final clean and jerk lift.

“I had no hopes of winning a medal after I injured my thighs during the National Championships while attempting 194 kg in clean and jerk. It’s a quadriceps problem; even now I am competing at less than ideal fitness, but I am glad that was enough to get me a gold,” said Sathish, after the medal presentation ceremony during which he was accorded a warm applause from the packed arena.

“I was in so much pain that even sitting was very painful for me. Everyone took care of me, gave me hope but I was not very confident. I had not trained that hard and my body was not at its best, and so how could I hope for a medal,” added the Tamil Nadu lifter.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 07: Gold medalist Sathish Kumar Sivalingam of India poses during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 77kg Weightlifting Final on day three of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Carrara Sports and Leisure Centre on April 7, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fascinating contest of one-upmanship between Sathish and eventual silver-medallist Jack Oliver of England in the snatch competition.

The two kept upping the weights before their attempts but Oliver kept his nose ahead at the end of snatch as he lifted 145 kg in his second attempt. It was a kilogram more than Satish’s final attempt.

However, Satish had the last laugh in clean and jerk after Oliver failed two attempts of 171kg and settled for a total of 312 kg (145+167).

The bronze medal went to Australian showman Francois Etoundi, who lifted 305 kg (136+169) and collapsed clutching his injured shoulder after his final lift.

“I got lucky there, had he (Oliver) not dropped those weights, I would have had to go higher and I am not sure how my body would have taken that. I am quite relieved actually.”

At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sathish won the gold medal with 149 kg snatch and 179 kg clean and jerk lifts, totalling 328 kg. His lift of 149 kg in snatch continues to be the Games record.

“I didn’t want to touch that level because I still need to undergo rehabilitation. The fact that the access to our physio was limited made it all the more difficult. I just hope that we get a physio with us at the Asian Games,” said Sathish, once again highlighting the problems the weightlifters are facing due to the lack of accessibility of their physios in the competition area.

Sathish is also the reigning Commonwealth Championships gold-medallist.

“I hope to do even better in the Asian Games because there is a gap now. Earlier, the Asian Games used to come within 20-25 days of the Commonwealth Games, which didn’t give us enough time to prepare. But this time I have got time to prepare and be fully fit now,” he said.

Tags: Jack OliverKumar SivalingamSathish SivalingamFrancois EtoundiIMAGE

Source:   www.rediff.com

Natarajan

Meet Gururaja…CWG 2018 Medallist…

‘His victory is our victory,” said his family as they watched him bag the silver medal in weightlifting, in Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 7.30 am on Thursday morning all eyes in the Poojary household in Vanse, a tiny village near Kundapur in Karnataka, were glued to the television.

One of their own, Gururaja Poojary, was taking part in the men’s 56-kg weightlifting competition in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. After failing to lift the weight of 138 kg in his first two attempts, it appeared as if Gururaja’s medal prospects were slipping away

The 25-year old weightlifter, however, was the very picture of strength in his final attempt to take his final tally to 249 kg and clinch the silver medal.

This medal in the Gold Coast is not only Gururaja’s first taste of success on the international stage right on his debut, but is also the product of a journey where he overcame poverty and personal setbacks to reach where he is.

But for his family members, it came as no surprise.

He comes from a sporting family – all five of his brothers dabbled in Kabaddi and were athletes. “But it was Gururaj who was always going to achieve his dream,” says Manohar Poojary, Gururaja’s elder brother.

Gururaja’s father, Mahabala Poojary, is a goods-truck driver, who struggled to make ends meet to take care of his six sons. “Poverty is something we have lived in all our life. If we were a little bit well-off financially or received the necessary support and encouragement, maybe all of my sons could have made our country proud,” says Mahabala, speaking after his son’s success in Australia.

But due to poverty and unforeseen circumstances at home, Gururaja’s older brothers – Mohan, Manohar, Udaya and Rajendra – had to drop out of school and, with that, from sports. Only Gururaja and his youngest brother, Rajesh, completed their studies amongst the six sons.

His mother, Padhu Poojarthi, is a homemaker.

But his family was not willing to let Gururaja tread the same path. “Our father worked extra hard to ensure that Gururaja strove to achieve his dream. Seeing my father’s and brother’s struggles, even we chipped-in, taking on extra work to help in whatever way we could. Today, his victory is as much our victory,” says Manohar.

While studying at Sri Dharmastala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) College in Ujire, in Dakshina Kannada, Gururaja was looking for a wrestling coach rather than a weightlifting one. This was around the time Sushil Kumar had won his first Olympic medal in wrestling in 2008. While his search for a wrestling coach proved to be fruitless, he met powerlifters at the local gym and was soon representing his college in powerlifting.

It was here he met his coach Rajendra Prasad, who gave him his first lessons in weightlifting.”I still remember, in 2011, Gururaja was a young boy who had just joined a graduation course. He was a Kabaddi player and a wrestler, and did not have any idea about powerlifting. We selected him for the club and, seeing his talent, guided him in powerlifting,” says Rajendra Prasad, who works as a coach at the SDM Sports Club.

He added that Gururaja was proficient at the University level and even broke a record set by him in 1999 by lifting 193 kg (total in snatch and knee jerk) in 2012. He improved to 243 kg in 2015, a record which still stands to this day.

It was only in 2013 that he became a national-level athlete and in 2014, after a gold medal at the national-level, he started becoming a serious contender for a Commonwealth Games berth.

With his superlative rise in the sport, Gururaja also enrolled in the Indian Air Force three years ago, after which the Air Force took care of all the training expenses. “Until then, it was the family, college-mates and generous philanthropists who gave wings to his dream, hoping he would bring glory to the region,” says Manohar.

By the time the financial strain on his family was eased, 25-year-old Gururaja was ready to take on the world stage.

With the win in Australia, he has now vaulted straight into the national limelight and Pramod Madhwaraj, Karnataka Minister for Youth, Fisheries and Sport, who also hails from Udupi, said that Gururaja is likely to get a government job as a group-B officer and also a cash prize for his achievements.

When TNM caught up with Gururaja, he was, understandably, elated. “I am very happy that I have represented India in the Commonwealth Games and won the first silver medal for India (this year). This is my first Commonwealth Games and I want to thank my parents, family, my weightlifting coach Rajendra Prasad, SDM institution and everyone from my village who supported me,” he says.

His family members, who were nervously watching from home, was over the moon. Although his mother says she doesn’t quite understand the world of sport, she adds she is overwhelmed by the media visits.

But Gururaja’s family was quick to add that the journey is still not over. “We want him to make our country proud. Our biggest dream is that he participates and wins in the Olympics,” says Mahabala.

There is still some way to go before Gururaja can qualify for the Olympics. His final tally of 249 kgs will have to improve closer to 300 kgs. But throughout his journey, he has broken barriers and after his latest success in Australia, Gururaja will no doubt be willing to go the mile to chase his Olympic dream.

Source…….Harsha Raja Gatty and Prajwal Bhat in https://www.thenewsminute.com

Natarajan

The Hindi-Speaking Aussie who loves India …

Charles ‘Biharilal’ Thomson, is an Australian who speaks fluent Hindi learnt on the streets, trains and buses of India’s hinterland.
Biharilal tells Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih how India has bewitched him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph: Kind courtesy Charles Thomson/Facebook

Biharilal Thomson is a white Australian who speaks Hindi better than many Indians.

The first time he saw a non-white person was as a 10 year old. His mother had invited an Indian yogi from Bihar into their home in Australia and asked her son to share his room with the sadhu for a few weeks.

“I had only seen white Australians till then, not even native Aboriginals — and here was an Indian in a langoti in my room!” he exclaims in good humour, sitting in a film producer’s home in suburban Mumbai, wearing a kurta-pajama and a yellow stole.

In the two hour conversation, he only speaks Hindi, a language he learnt in the streets, trains and buses of Bihar where he had arrived at age 13 in December 1974.

He loved his new home on the banks of the Ganga so much that he did not return to Australia for the next 11 years. Accounts of his experiences in India’s rural underbelly in the 1970s-1980s, include encounters with dacoits on horseback on at least two railway journeys.

“I saw real sadhus, I saw real dacoits — and I thought I had reached an amazing place,” says Biharilal with a grin. His life experiences, he says are so unbelievable that he sometimes thinks it is like a film.

It also reveals an India of another time — one that was simpler, wilder, unfamiliar and distant from what it is today.

“India was friendly with the Soviet Union, and I came across Indians who were desperate to emigrate to the USA, Canada or UK — not to the USSR.”

“The other thing that was common was cycles. Only the DM (district magistrate) and SP (superintendent of police) had cars — and in the trains people sometimes travelled with their own cooks!”

After going back to Australia in 1985, he returned to formally work in India in 2011.

India has seen a giant leap ahead since, and he has spent nearly 16 years here, but one question posed to him that hasn’t changed over the years is — “Why did you come to India?”

“This is what I am routinely asked, especially by the youth. They ask ‘Why have you come here when we want to settle abroad?’,” says Biharilal, who applied for Indian citizenship in 2014 and hopes to hold an Indian passport soon.

“The other thing I am amazed with is this craze for English. Even if I speak to those who know Hindi in Hindi, they reply in English!”

“Why?”

His fluency in Hindi has fetched him invites to Hindi events by the Indian high commission in Australia, to symposia at Savitribai Phule Pune university and Delhi’s Hansraj College. He has anchored a few film festivals and done some acting roles.

It has also brought him an FM radio show that he hopes to receive a confirmation for by April.

“In independent India it will be the first time that an angrez will do a radio show in Hindi,” he says enthusiastically.

Not wanting to be boxed into roles of the typical gora speaking tooti-phooti Hindi, he refers to the accomplished actor Tom Alter.

“He is an asli Hindustani, I’m nakli, but because earlier directors made him speak broken Hindi like an angrez, people thought he was English.”

“People didn’t know he was Indian, a Padma Shri, who spoke fluent Hindi and Urdu.”

Biharilal works at Josh Talks, a media company that invites guests to share inspirational stories. His focus is on all regional languages and tier-2 cities.

He has also done a few acting roles in Hindi and Marathi television serials, and recently appeared in an airline commercial for Scoot, a budget airline owned by Singapore Airlines.

There are quirky benefits to a white man speaking Hindi too — like the number of wedding invitations he receives. Many wedding organisers in the Delhi area send him invitations only to have a foreigner on display!

“I get so many invitations for chief guest. In the marriage season, I’ll be booked,” he laughs.

“People want a gora who speaks Hindi to show at their weddings.”

The move from Australia to India may have been a continental shift, but for Charles ‘Biharilal’ Thompson, it was like coming home.

It was a life introduced to him by his mother, a ballerina and an early convert to yoga, who came to learn at the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger in 1972.

“At that time only 1% of the world travelled by aeroplane,” says Biharilal, who is often recognised as ‘Biharilal Autowale Babu’ after a show on Zee TV where he covered the 2017 Delhi municipal election in a colourful autorickshaw.

He also covered the UP assembly election last year for WION, Zee’s English news channel.

“We used to fly to the Gold Coast to visit my grandparents every year. I made my father promise that he would send me to India instead, if I stood 1st or 2nd in school.”

He stood 2nd and travelled to Calcutta, he says, taking a train to Jamalpur and then a bus to Munger.

“I was shocked to see the poverty in Calcutta, but hearing ‘garam chai‘ by tea vendors in the train was like music,” he remembers.

Eight weeks later, his father returned to take him home.

“I told him I wanted to stay for one more year,” he says over a cup of tea.

“But I stayed for 11.”

blob:https://ishare.rediff.com/d8239350-f845-46f6-86e1-762bd67d53b5

He has now spent 16 years in India — first at the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, then working in a financial tech start up Eko India, and currently in the entertainment industry.

At the famed yoga school in Munger, he says he learnt yoga and managed the library. He helped in the institute’s office work which would take him to Patna and Delhi.

It was on one these travels that he found himself in the middle of a dacoity.

He had bought a third class ticket and boarded a train from Jamalpur to Patna in Bihar. The TT saw his ticket and upgraded him to first class. Along the way, dacoits came riding alongside the train, detached the first class compartment and started looting passengers.

When they reached his coupe, he held out his hands, and said, “Ruko, ruko! (stop, stop!)”

The dacoits stopped.

“I was a young boy and did not know very good Hindi at that time, so I just managed to ask a dacoit if he had any videshifriend?”

The dacoit said ‘No’ and Biharilal told him that he would be his friend.

“He smiled and did not take anything from me.”

Caught in another dacoity on a railway platform — this time on a dark railway platform surrounded by crop fields — his saffron clothes came to his rescue.

“When they came to me, I just sprang up and started chanting Bum, Bum Bole-Bum, Bum Bole and they said, ‘Yeh toh Ganga jal wala aadmi hai‘ and let me go,” he chuckles.

India was very different then, he says. Yoga institutes were very austere and drew only the most committed.

He remembers the first function he organised which had a generator as backup for electricity failure. When the lights went off and the generator was switched on — the crowd left the sammelan and rushed to get a first glimpse of a generator at the back.

At fifty-seven, Biharilal has seen the arc of India’s history from Indira Gandhi’s Emergency to her assassination to the post liberalisation. He has travelled widely, even taken his mother to the Kumbh Mela.

In between, he returned to Australia and ran a Thai vegetarian restaurant but kept coming back to India.

“I started coming back in the late 80s, but visas were very difficult. Till the Modi Sarkar came, getting a visa to India was not easy. Sushma Swaraj is doing a good job,” he says.

In 2009, a startup started by Biharis, Eko India, offered him a job and he moved to India.

But it was a chance encounter with an Indian student at a Sydney swimming pool that opened the door to acting.

Shashank Ketkar, now a popular television actor, had got talking to him by the pool hearing his Hindi and came to eat at his Thai restaurant.

Few years later, Biharilal would visit him on the sets of his show whenever he was in Mumbai. His kurta-pajama style of dressing and fluency in Hindi caught the eyes of the director and led to small roles. He also got to play an angrez in a Marathi film Shashank Ketkar was acting in.

“I went to Kohlapur and shot a scene where I was seated on a horse in 40 degrees heat. I loved it. I thought I had become Shah Rukh Khan!”

He has also acted in a Hindi suspense thriller that will release this year.

Every day, he receives a large number of messages on Facebook and makes it a point to at least say ‘Ram, Ram’ or ‘Namaste’ to them.

“I feel the whole of Hindustan is made for me. Yeh kamal ka desh hai, yaha aapko sab kuch mil jayega (this is a great country, there is nothing you can’t find here),” he says, adjusting the famous Australian Akubra hat he is wearing and steps into the hot Mumbai sun.

Archana Masih / Rediff.com

Source…..www.rediff.com

Natarajan