While a barefooted Sayali Mhaishune of RM Bhatt High School (Parel) was breaking new ground against all odds at the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park (PDP) yesterday afternoon, her father Mangesh was mending shoes in his shop in Dadar (East).
While Sayali Mhaishune was racing at Priyadarshini Park, her father (left) was busy mending shoes at his shop
It was a normal Monday, laden with work for Mangesh, who was busy digging into torn footwear and polishing dull shoes when mid-day caught up with him last evening. His 14-year-old younger daughter had just won her maiden U-17 gold medal in the 3,000 m event a few hours ago and he could not stop smiling as he discussed her feat and rued his inability to witness it.
Mangesh’s younger daughter had just won her maiden U-17 gold medal in the 3,000m event a few hours ago and he could not stop smiling as he discussed her feat and rued his inability to witness it. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
“I knew she was representing her school at the athletics meet. I wanted to go, but couldn’t because feeding my family is more important than going to watch her run,” said Mangesh (46), who earns between R3,000 to 10,000 a month, and cannot afford to keep his shop shut even for a day.
“Whatever little I earn goes into my two daughters’ education. My elder daughter Mayuri (17) is doing a diploma in Information Technology, while my wife Savita keeps ill frequently. Sayali though, has made me very proud today,” said the elated father with a broad smile.
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Sayali Mhaishune (centre) broke new ground against all odds at the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships at Priyadarshini Park (PDP) last afternoon
Sayali clocked 12:27.8 seconds to win gold, beating defending champion and school mate Sejal Kadam (13:08.1s), who is two years her senior, in the process. Quimcy D’Souza (14:12.3s) of St Agnes High School (Byculla) won bronze.
Sayali’s feet laid bare the truth of her poverty. “My father can’t afford to buy me spikes, so I’m used to training barefoot at the Naigaon Police Ground track,” said young Sayali. A pair of running spikes cost anywhere between Rs 500-2,000.
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Yesterday’s synthetic surface at the PDP however, posed a painful challenge. “As I practice on mud, running on this rough synthetic surface was very tough. The track was very hot too as our races were around noon. Around the halfway mark, I was dehydrated, but somehow kept running. I didn’t expect to win a medal, my aim was simply to finish the race. Spikes would have definitely helped me run faster here,” said the Std IX student, who also participates in prize money-yielding mini marathons across the state in a bid to reduce her parents’ financial burden.
Dad Mangesh, however, promises not to let the shortage of funds sour this sweet moment of success. “She called to inform me about her gold. I can’t afford an expensive gift, but I’ll take home her favourite chocolates,” assured Mangesh, even as he returned to polish a pair of old, black shoes. His daughter too meanwhile, continues to polish her athletic skills in the hope of sparkling for her country one day.