How Achinta Sheuli went from being an embroidery worker to Commonwealth Games Champion
Achinta had not only lifted 313 kilograms of weight but also lifted his village out of obscurity at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Deulpur, till Sunday midnight, was another nondescript village with a population of 12,000 people under Panchla sub-division of Howrah district in West Bengal. That is how Wikipedia describes the village in about three sentences.
On Monday morning, the page had a sub-section added, 'Notable Personality' and that is Achinta Sheuli.
Achinta had not only lifted 313 kilograms of weight but also lifted his village out of obscurity and invoked interest in people to know more about the 20-year-old, who came from a village, which is famous for Zari work. The suppleness in his thumb and index finger wasn't something Achinta aimed at developing.
Rather, it was a compulsion as his days would be spent with a needle between the fingers and a brocade to design. That put food on the table. And that food gave him strength to lift weights.
"Our village is known for Zari work. So we three (him, mother and brother) also started doing embroidery work for contractors. Work would begin at 6.30 am and would continue till the evening," an emotional Achinta recollected after winning India's third yellow metal at the Commonwealth Games.
His father Jagat was a trolley rickshaw puller and at one time the sole breadwinner of the family of four, living in a chawl. A fatal heart-attack snatched him from Achinta in 2013, when he was just 11 years old.
"Everything, including the clock stopped for us," he paused as he gathered his thoughts. "We never expected this and we were not prepared for this. We were then forced to do zari (embroidery) work. My mother (Purnima) also did that," he said.
Achinta was like any other kid, happy-go-lucky, carefree, oblivious to worldly worries like any 10 year old. He was happy to fly kites on 'Makar Sakranti' and chase and collect those which would fall by the roadside. Makar sakranti in Bengal is known as 'Poush Parbon'. And that's how his love for weightlifting started -- chasing kites.
"I loved kite flying and looked up to the 'poush paarbon' every year to fly kites and chase them with my friends. But little did I know that I would land up in weightlifting," Achinta laughed.
"I was chasing a kite which landed up at the doorstep of the vyamagar (desi version of gymansium) where my "dada" (elder brother Alok) was training. Dada's coach (Astam Das) was very impressed with wrist-work while flying kites and asked him to bring me on the next day," Achinta had a big grin plastered all over his face.
Sachin had Ajit and Achinta had Alok
In Indian sports, elder brothers have had a massive impact on careers of celebrated sportsperson and it would be fair to say that every Sachin Tendulkar needs an Ajit by his side. Achinta was lucky that his elder brother Alok, who realised that his younger sibling had more potential to shine and as is the saga of Indian homes, sacrificed his own passion to build the former's career.
"Initially, I came to training with my brother. I was pretty young -- maybe 10-11 years old -- then to realise what's going on. But lifting weights was just fun then," he recollected.
Weightlifting took a back-seat for Alok. "My brother then had to give up his weightlifting career, sensing that I was better than him. He would give Rs 600-700 every month as pocket money and ensured that I continue training," he said.
Days of struggle seemed to be over
Things started falling in place after he won a medal at the junior National level in 2015 and joined Army Sports Institute (ASI). The same year he was included in the Indian National camp as he went on to win a silver each at the Commonwealth Youth Championship (2015) and Asian Youth Championship (2018).
In 2019, he won the Commonwealth Championship gold medal at junior level and in last year he won the same at the senior level.
"This has improved gradually. We have been able to renovate our house and live in a pucca house though some work is still underway. But I'm thankful there are no financial constraints anymore."
Life, according to him has been on a fast lane, and he is just trying to comprehend everything that is happening around him.
"Sometimes when I'm sitting alone, I think about all I've seen in life in these few years. But as they said everything happens for good. I'll just keep fighting and improving myself," he said.
Medal and celebration
Egged on by his coach Vijay Sharma who was seen calming his nerves, patting the lifter's head in the tunnel, Achinta ensured that he had a "green light" for 170kg within the stipulated time for a total lift of 313kg, another CWG record for the total weight.
It was well past 1 o'clock at night and the most of Indians were fast asleep when the national flag went up amid the loud cheers and the reverberation of the National Anthem at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. But lights were still on at the remote village of Deulpur.
"All my folks in the family and a few villagers stayed awake. I'm grateful to win this. I hope this is just the beginning," he signed off.