Despite his father's passing, Ajay Muthaiah shines at Yuva Kabaddi Series
Still only 21, Ajay Muthaiah has been one of the shining lights for Palani Tuskers in the ongoing Yuva Kabaddi Series Summer Edition at Mysore. But behind his cheerful demeanour is an inspiring story of overcoming enormous grief.
'Champion' is a word often used for the ones who win it all.
However, every once in a while, a champion is produced when someone is pushed to the limit and they manage to emerge stronger from it.
One such example is that of 21-year-old defender Ajay Muthaiah, who is representing Palani Tuskers in Yuva Kabaddi Series Summer edition in Mysore.
Hailing from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Ajay had his chance to feature in the premier kabaddi tournament last year but could not due to his father's untimely demise.
"I wanted to play the Yuva series last year in December but couldn't due to my father's death. Last year all the players who played got good exposure, so I was determined to play this year as I also wanted to get that exposure and the chance to travel with the team," said Ajay.
The demise of his biggest supporter was a huge setback for the youngster. To make it worse, he was completely unaware about it when it actually happened.
"I was not even at home. I was playing at the All India University games. My phone was broken, so my dad called one of my friends at 4 am to talk to me. I couldn't talk to him then. Since I was playing the next day, nobody told me about the incident. It was only when I reached home that he was not there, and the realisation dawned on me," Ajay said while struggling to fight his tears.
Ajay's father was the only earning member in the family. So this incident not only put his family through emotional trauma, but also put the onus on Ajay to take care of his mother and college-going sister.
Right now, his family's source of income is the Rs. 10,000 per month which he receives from the Khelo India program, apart from whatever he earns through the Yuva series. His uncle has also been a big support in these difficult times.
"It is tough to manage everything in this situation but it is how it is. If I play in local tournaments, I get a little more money while a few family members also lend a helping hand from time to time," said Ajay.
While he is an upcoming star in his own right now, his mother has reservations about him playing kabaddi due to her fear of Ajay getting injured.
"Now I am playing in the Yuva Kabaddi Series and I am getting paid here. My mother finds it tough to stay away from me as she is alone but money is coming into the household, so she is somewhat happy," Ajay says with a wry smile.
While the Pro Kabaddi League has taken the sport to the masses, tournaments like Yuva Kabaddi Series are playing a definitive role in grooming future stars.
"Whenever I am playing the Yuva series, everyone from my village watches it. I am the happiest when everyone says my name alongside my father's name. They are proud of me now," Ajay said with a beaming smile on his face.
While the hardships have taken a toll on the youngster, if kabaddi has taught him one thing, it is how to grind.
"All my life, I've played only kabaddi and never had any other interests. I started playing in 7th standard when my village coach used to train me. He told me that I could become a good defender. His training is the reason I could join the Sports Authority of India and won at every junior level, from state to the nationals," he recalled.
Ajay played at the SAI Center for six years and got free accommodation and training there by virtue of his performances.
"When I look back, I have only gratitude towards the game of kabaddi. People started respecting me after I won tournaments," said Ajay.
"I want to play in the Pro Kabaddi League and get a stable job to help my family," Ajay concluded with hope in his eyes.
As cliched as it may sound, the proverb 'where there is a will, there is a way' is one which suits his story to a tee. One can only hope that Ajay goes from strength to strength and achieves everything that he wants.