Mandwa's Hero: Avinash Sable's medal sparks hopes of road and recognition
While Avinash Sable graced the podium twice at the Asian Games 2023, his village Mandwa will hope this time they get a pucca road in return for Sable's achievement.
Beed, Maharashtra: There is no easy way to visit Mandwa village of Ashti Taluka in Maharashtra's Beed district, nestled amidst the obscure Balaghat mountain range.
Public transport doesn't offer direct routes, and if you have a personal vehicle, you must navigate through the dirt-filled kaccha (earthen) roads, considering yourself fortunate if the journey proves worthwhile.
But Mandwa isn't just like any other faraway Indian village; it's the home of Avinash Sable, who recently concluded the 2023 Asian Games with two medals: a gold in the 3000m steeplechase and a silver in the 5000m event.
"I had never thought that I would be into sports. Always through that, I will be a labourer," Avinash said after claiming the 5000m silver medal.
Arguably one of the best middle-distance runners in India, Sable trains in the USA at Colorado Springs and Inspire Institute of Sports in Bellary equipped with world-class facilities, but it was not the case always.
From the kaccha roads of Mandwa to World
Born to Mukund Sable and Vaishali Sable, Avinash had to run to help his parents in their work as masons on different sites. To avoid getting late, Sable will run constantly on the village's Kaccha road leading to Zila Primary School.
"His parents used to work at a brick kiln and Avinash had to come all the way six kilometres to study in this school. Sometimes, I would punish him for being late. So, from the next day he would run to school," laughed Hemant Mutkule, who was Avinash's teacher in the primary school.
"His family was poor, they didn't have much to offer. This whole basti was nothing but a bunch of huts and kaccha houses when Avinash was growing up," Hemant pointed at a landscape that has some fields and few new houses.
To date, despite Avinash Sable being one of the most accomplished athletes in the country, the road leading to his village is filled with mud, getting muddy in the rainy season. During the monsoon, it becomes a track of steeplechase with water obstacles but not the flat track on which Avinash chases glory thereafter. It posed Avinash the real challenge as moving forward here is tough.
"His victories and accomplishments are very important to us. He has done enough to bring the attention of the authorities to the lack of basic amenities here," Hemant said.
While taking a stroll near the school, a gentleman proudly said that due to Sable's medal at the Commonwealth Games, a lot of government officials visited the village.
"Changla manus ahe (He is a good person). When he came after the Commonwealth Games, a lot of officials came to this village and he asked to provide the basic amenities," Maruti Veer, one of the village elders, told The Bridge.
Well, the story told by the villagers is true that the construction of Avinash's house was facing some issues with regular power cuts and his one call to the local officer in Beed District fixed the issue.
"He is a big man now but always connected to his roots. We have seen him struggle and he has immense to go beyond the facilities available here," said Hemant.
'One medal gave electricity, other can give us road'
Sable's tryst with tough conditions and lack of facilities was never an issue for him. He was not only the first athlete or the first sportsperson from his village but was the first person to get a proper job with a fixed salary.
"Kabhi nahi socha tha beta yahan tak pahuch jaayega (Never thought, my son would reach here). I still don't know what to do when someone asks how this has happened," said Mukund Sable, who has gone for an inspection of the farming lands.
Sable, who has moved from his small to a makeshift house of one room while his new home is being constructed, had to choose the plot closer to the highway for the construction as there is no regular supply of electricity in the village.
"We are making our village a bit from our basti and closer to the highway because it enables us to have an uninterrupted power supply. He wanted to construct the house in this area only cause he grew up here," his father Mukund Sable said.
"He (Avinash) wants to do good for his village. His dream is to give this village the facilities it never had," said Mukund.
Avinash, who received the Arjuna Award in 2022, has changed the fortune of his family with a bike for his father and a new home underway but what pinches Mukund most is the ignorance of the officials.
"I will be honest, I don't need anything extra. I have more than enough but it hurts when the village is being ignored so many times despite Avinash doing so well," said Mukund.
"One medal at the Commonwealth Games gave electricity, I hope the other gives us the road," sighed Mukund.
Avinash Sable's victory at the Asian Games is not just his victory, it is a tale of resilience and determination against the lack of facilities and opportunities.
Avinash's triumphs have brought electricity to his home, but the village still waits for a pucca road, hoping that the two medals at the Asian Games might be the catalyst for this much-needed development.
As the sun sets over the Balaghat mountain range, Avinash's village eagerly anticipates the two amenities it might soon receive, marking the continued triumphs of its illustrious son.