As Neeraj Chopra hurled his javelin to a mammoth 87.58m distance, the tremor of his feat were felt 6,000 kilometres away in India, which broke in a jubilant look after the Haryana boy clinched the gold medal, a first in a track-and-field competition at the Olympics.
Further west, with a time difference of eight hours, a community of Haryana natives in London rejoiced the moment shouting to the core of their heart.
Kuldeep Ahlawat, an IT consultant who is the president of "Haryana in UK Community", shares a pretty strong bond with India's Olympic contingent. A regular attendee of the Games since London 2012, Ahlawat, who settled in London from Rohtak in Haryana in 2006, formed the group with like-minded people. Together they make sure of rooting and cheering for Team India whenever they compete in international events. "Haryana always has lent a big contribution to India's Olympic contingent. But it was further special this Olympics. Both the medals by Bajrang Punia and Neeraj Chopra came on the same day. Never before in India's history at the Olympics, two medals have come on the same day. So this was a matter of immense pride. The entire Haryana in the UK community came gathered at one place and revelled in the glory on Saturday," he said in a conversation with The Bridge
from the UK.
Most of the community members made sure to dedicatedly follow all the matches in the roster played by the Indians. An eight-hour time difference meant the matches often used to start at 2 in the morning. But their daunting spirit kept them awake to follow India's games throughout the Olympics. "I have been travelling to the Summer Olympic Games since 2012. I had booked my ticket for Tokyo last year, but eventually, it got cancelled. I had to wait for another year. Though the fans were not allowed in Tokyo, I made sure of waking up and cheering for India even during the wee hours," says Ahlawat.
'Haryana in UK' with India's Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra in 2017
Close to 30 members of the community, including Ahlawat his friends Anshu Dagar, Meenakshi Dagar, Sandeep, and Vineeta Saroha, Ashwani, and Kusum Kalkal, Vivek and Meenu Dahyal, Rinku and Reena Dhankhar, Dhirender and Mona Dangi, Ankit Taxak, Ravinder and Viva Sheokand, Vidita, Ishan, Avishi, Avyukt, Ananya, Aryan, Maya, Chahak, Mahak, Suhani, Ranveer, Aditya, Manish and Priya Dahiya were glued to their TV screen throughout Saturday.
Most Indian athletes know Ahlawat personally and are aware of the hospitality he has provided to them whenever they have been around the UK for tournaments or personal visits. "In 2016, the boxing team had come to the UK, and we hosted a dinner for all the players in the team. Even Neeraj had visited us during a tournament in 2017. I have a good friendship with boxers Vijender Singh, Vikas Krishan, Amit Panghal, the hockey players. They have passed on my contacts to the future generation of players. So, anyone who visits the UK, we arrange a meet and greet session and try to make them feel at home."
After the conclusion of the Olympics, Ahlawat had called up Bajrang Punia and the family of Neeraj Chopra, with whom he spoke to pass on the message of the sheer happiness they have brought to the nation.
The 'Haryana in UK" community will now be looking forward to hosting players during the Commonwealth Games 2022, to be held in Birmingham.