It appeared to be a befitting welcome for a World Championship medallist. Well, not quite. As soon as wrestler Sandeep Tulsi Yadav and his coach Jagmal Singh stepped into the visitors’ waiting area of the Mumbai Airport’s domestic 1A terminal, nearly a 100 people, most of them Yadav’s co-trainees from Kandivli’s Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus and his friends, spontaneously broke into applause.
Within minutes, a beaming Yadav and Singh, covered in multiple garlands, were hoisted onto shoulders with dhols and nagadas playing in the background as a few reporters clamoured for bytes from the 25-year-old.
The party seemed poised to go on for the entire day. After all, it’s not everyday that a lad from India wins a bronze medal in the Greco-Roman category at a prestigious wrestling event like the World Championships.
But just then police intervened. They rounded up a couple of dhol and nagadawalas from the welcoming party and took them to the Sahar Airport police station for playing their instruments without permission.
After some frantic calls to local politicians, they were finally let off, but not before the entire group including Yadav had waited at the airport for about half-an-hour.
The slight was too much to bear for the usually soft-spoken Singh, who thundered: “Ek wrestler ki badnami ho gayi hai (A wrestler’s reputation has been maligned). Our felicitation plans have been ruined! If it was a cricketer, this would not have happened.”
Yadav was saddened too. “When the other two medallists (silver medallist Amit Kumar Dahiya and bronze winner Bajrang) came to New Delhi airport, they were also given a similar reception with dhols and nagadas.
The cops there did not stop anyone then. In fact, they even allowed a couple of people to go inside the airport to pick up the medallists. I’m from Mumbai and what has happened here is very bad. If it was some politician or cricketer instead of me, they would not have faced this,” he lamented.
An irate SAI official, who was at the airport to welcome the grappler, said, “They (the men detained by the police) are not terrorists firing bullets. We just wanted to welcome a World Championship medal-winner.”
An official from the airport police station told MiD DAY that the men were picked up but released soon after with a warning. “The airport area is a silent zone, so we had to detain them as playing dhols is against the rules. This would not have happened had they taken the necessary permissions,” he said.