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'Chopra Brothers': The family that produced Neeraj Chopra's Olympic gold

Neeraj Chopra's joint family in the village of Khandra - whose WhatsApp group is called 'Chopra brothers' - did not follow the modern trend, as his biographer finds out.

Chopra Brothers: The family that produced Neeraj Chopras Olympic gold

Neeraj Chopra's childhood is explored in his biography, 'From Panipat to the Podium', as the author explores how his background helped him become a world champion.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 29 Jan 2022 8:25 AM GMT

Neeraj Chopra's household has been living in this village (Khandra, Haryana) for generations and always had limited means...Neeraj's father Satish took care of the fields...He is consequently a very modest man and is aware of the world outside his own. Early on, his responsibilities were clear. He had to ensure that there was food on the table, and the family fought on! All those years of struggle show clearly on his wrinkled face and greying moustache.

Satish's younger brother is Bhim, who is a heavyweight both on the weighing scale and as an impact on the starboy's life. He is the one you would often see interacting with the media and taking care of things in the family. He is also more entrepreneurial. While Satish took care of the fields, Bhim started looking for private jobs and contracts to contribute to the family. Over the years, Bhim continuously interacted with people in administration and business and this experience also helped shape Neeraj's career.

Then there is Surender. Around a decade younger than Satish, Surender is the quieter one and wears the strategy hat in the house. While his brothers ensured that the family stayed afloat, Surender began understanding the modern ways of the world. He was always a passionate young man and wanted to excel in whatever he did. While at school, he participated in extra-curricular activities; striving hard to excel with best performances. However, the daily challenges forced him to drop his passions and pursue something more practical that spelt money for sustenance.

Finally, there was Sultan. The youngest of all the brothers, Sultan is engaged in managing the fields with Satish.

All decisions of the family are taken collectvely. The brothers sit together, talk about challenges and decide the way ahead. Hence, what Neeraj would do was not just deliberated upon by his father, Satish, but all of his uncles too. I recollect sitting with them in a room together. When Satish was the only one present in the room, he noted that the other brothers, particularly Bhim and Surender, played a role in Neeraj's success. When Bhim joined, he laughed it off, saying it was Satish's hard work and Surender's push. And when Surender came in, he gestured towards his two elder brothers.

And that is the thing. The family had limited means, and they had to get out of the clutches of those challenges. So, everybody discussed together how they could accomplish their goals. They did not want the challenges they faced or had been facing to impede the growth of their children. The dictum of the family was 'we have to progress', and they wanted to ensure that by whatever means possible.

I have to admit that this by itself became a great story. Joint family institutions have been witnessing a swift decline in response to modernization and urbanization. Familiies are separating and moving out to different cities across India for a variety of reasons. This trend has been on for some time. However, there are still some families in Haryana which continue to live in this system and prosper. Here is a prime example.

This is an extract from Neeraj Chopra's biography 'Neeraj Chopra: From Panipat to the Podium' published by Rupa Publications in 2022. The book, authored by Arjun Singh Kadian, traces his journey from his days of being an obese child to winning India's first Olympic gold medal in athletics.

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