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Gentle giant

What does it take for a lad from Haryana with little knowledge of English to make it to the glitzy ring of professional wrestling in faraway Japan and US, take on the might of a champion like Undertaker and become a formidable fighter on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) with a heavyweight championship title under his belt?

“For 20 years, my weight has remained constant at 420lb. Nahin toh fight nahin kar pata,” says The Great Khali, his booming baritone threatening to drown out his words over the telephone. If the 7ft 3inch frame helped to get noticed, what nurtured the colossus was a strict regimen that he follows to this day. Apart from a fixed diet, he exercises for two hours every morning and evening.

In India recently to promote WWE for Ten Sports, he was waiting eagerly to be back in his native village Dhiraina, from where Dalip Singh Rana had started his journey as a stone cutter. “The last time I had gone, gaon mein bahut pyar aur ashirvaad mila. I want to go and offer puja in our temple.” This is the Kali temple where Khali used to be a priest. “Khandani pujari hain humlog,” he says.

The goddess was the inspiration behind the ring name he took in the US when he migrated there from Japan where he was known as Giant Singh. In 2006, The Great Khali became the first Indian professional wrestler to be contracted by WWE.

In Dhiraina, the Khali success story has triggered a wrestling wave. “Youngsters come to seek tips. I tell them to concentrate on wrestling,” he smiles.

Last time when he came to India, he met Shah Rukh Khan. A film he had shot for then called Kushti released on May 14 and the posters suggest that his co-actor Rajpal Yadav was dwarfed by the Goliath that he is. He laughs at the suggestion. Another Hindi film he has signed is for children, called Rama — The Saviour. The big-screen outings were not a debut for the wrestler as he has made appearances in Hollywood movies like The Longest Yard and Get Smart. “Bollywood mein bahut offer hain,” he admits, but he is not ready to take the plunge yet.

Today, his one day’s diet is worth his month’s salary of Rs 5,000 during his days with the Punjab state police. He has a house in Houston and rides a Ford Mercury. But ask him about life after wrestling and the gentle giant’s simple answer is “farming, back home”.

Khali’s diet

Breakfast
One egg, a whole chicken, one banana, one pineapple, a biscuit and one litre water
Lunch
Daal, 10 rotis, sabzi, chicken, milk (two glasses), rasgulla
Dinner
Same as lunch

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