Sunshine story: Mumbai police gives flight to boxer's dream

Updated: Oct 23, 2017, 09:07 IST | Suraj Ojha

When Madhavi Gonbare's family had no funds to send the talented student to a boxing match, senior inspector A Dharmadhikari stepped in with help

No one wants to get mixed up with the police; it's a scary thought. But, for Sakinaka's Gonbare family, a call from the cops changed their lives, for the better, that is. It gave the family's young and budding boxer a chance to participate in a world championship. Senior inspector Avinash Dharmadhikari had called the family to the police station and helped them collect the required funds, so that they could send their daughter to the competition. Needless to say, she justified the faith put in her and bagged gold.

With inventor of the sport Iepe Rubingh, after winning gold at the World Amateur Chess Boxing Championship in May this year
With inventor of the sport Iepe Rubingh, after winning gold at the World Amateur Chess Boxing Championship in May this year

A bouquet of medals
The boxing journey of 21-year-old Madhavi Gonbare, who completed her BMS from Ramniranjan Jhunjhunwala, Ghatkopar, last year, started in 2014, when she was in the second year. Her college had organised a self-defence training workshop for female students, during which a teacher noticed her talent and fitness. In July that year, she got a chance to participate in a boxing competition in Kandivli, where she won a bronze. This was followed by a gold in a district-level championship. In 2014, her college sent her for a state-level match in Ahmednagar, where she won a silver. Next came a national-level kickboxing championship, organised by the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations, in Andhra Pradesh, where she bagged a bronze. Madhavi told mid-day, "Each success made me feel powerful. Last year, I participated in a few Mumbai University matches, which I lost. But, I didn't give up and kept practising. Then, one day I got a call from my sir (who'd trained her during college) and he asked me to participate in chess-boxing matches. I took part in matches held in Dahisar and won gold."

When she won the championship in Kolkata, this year
When she won the championship in Kolkata, this year

The real struggle
After she finished college, her financially-constrained family was wondering how she would get further training, but Madhavi was raring to go. In May 2017, she got the chance to participate in a Chessboxing Amateur World Championship in Kolkata. Three years ago, she had started playing chess with her brother, Bhupendra, to pass time. She had become so good at it, that she thought she would enter the chessboxing championship. But, there was a catch – the Rs 30,000 participation fee. Her college pooled in Rs 5,000, but there was no way Madhavi, whose father died when she was in school and her mother earning Rs 4,500 a month as a school peon, was going to be able to arrange for the rest of it. "My dad died in a road accident when I was in Std X. My mother doesn't earn much. But, I wanted to participate anyhow. So, I visited politicians and other officials but managed to collect only a small amount," she said.

Madhavi with the NCC's 8th Maharashtra Girl Battalion
Madhavi with the NCC's 8th Maharashtra Girl Battalion

Enter SI Dharmadhikari
Her mother Sharmila said, "I don't know where he got my number from. He called me to the police station with Madhavi. My first reaction was fear — was this was going to add to our problems? But, he greeted us warmly, offered us refreshments and spoke to Madhavi about her game."

Avinash Dharmadhikari, senior inspector
Avinash Dharmadhikari, senior inspector

The good Samaritans
Dharmadhikari said, "A friend told me about the girl and her family, so I called them to the police station. I was impressed that at 21, she had won three gold, one silver and three bronze medals. I organised a programme and invited a few social activists, who I introduced Madhavi to and appealed to them to help her financially." Lavita Powell, a social activist, said, "I was amazed by how much Madhavi had achieved at such a young age. I was confident that if she got financial support, she would make India proud. We are helping her train as well as study and she's doing well."

Completely focused on bettering her game, Madhavi has set her sights on winning medals for India someday. At the moment, she has said she wants to clear the MPSC exam. Here, too, Dharmadhikari has been helping her with coaching class teachers. She said her dream was if she became an officer, she would help students like her.

What is chessboxing?
Started in 2001 by Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, who borrowed the idea from Enki Bilal's 1992 graphic novel, Froid Equateur, chess boxing combines the cerebral board game with a physical sport. The competitors fight in alternating rounds of chess and boxing.

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