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Poverty grounds yoga champ’s global flight

Poverty did not allow him to play football, his childhood passion, but it could not stop everything.

Mohan Singh, 21, a farm labourer who has struggled hard and got into a college, began to practise yoga when he was 12.

The first-year BA student of Majhdia College has been selected by the Yoga Federation of India to represent the country at the Asian Yoga Championship in Kuala Lumpur to be held on August 29 as well as in the World Yoga Championship in Paris slated for October 13 this year. The world championship is organised by World Yoga Sports Federation and four other international yoga organisations.

But that doesn’t mean that Mohan is leaving for Kuala Lumpur. Paris is an even more distant dream.

Mohan, who often works as a daily farm labourer to help his family, needs around Rs 2,00,000 to attend the two international events.

The Yoga Federation of India, is a parent body that in the country, is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association. The federation selected Mohan after he ranked first in this year’s National Yoga Championship held in Hoshiarpur, Punjab.

The federation has asked Mohan to arrange for Rs 80,000 for the Kuala Lumpur meet and Rs 1,20,000 for the world meet in Paris.

The son of a poor farmer of Baghadanga village under Gangnapur police station, near Ranaghat, about 75km from Calcutta, Mohan realised early enough that he could not afford to be a football player.

“I could not choose any other sport because it would require money to purchase accessories. Poverty taught me to love yoga. But now poverty is standing in the way of opportunities again,” Mohan said.

“Rs 2 lakh is a dream for a family like mine,” said Mohan.

Mohan’s father Subhash Singh suffers from arthritis. The family is largely maintained by Mohan’s elder brother Suman, also a farm labourer.

Mohan started to learn yoga in 2005 inspired by Baba Ramdev.

“Being involved in sports from childhood I have a flexible body. I started practising yoga after buying a small book from the market. I first performed yoga at a school programme when our sports teacher Sunil Majumder praised me,” Mohan said.

“He inspired me a lot and took me to many competitions. In 2009, Sunil sir admitted me to D.L. Roy Institute, a yoga club in Ranaghat for good training for the first time. From that year I started participating in state meets,” said Mohan.

In 2010 he began to train with yoga expert Manas Mukherjee at Chakdaha Physical Forum. “In 2012-13, I ranked second at the state meet and ranked first at the national meet, which earned me the opportunity to attend the meet in Kuala Lumpur,” Mohan added.

His mentors are all praise for Mohan.“He is a natural learner and learnt the yoga postures from the instructions in the book and the pictures,” said Majumder, the sports teacher.

“He is a sincere learner with natural talent and a God-gifted body,” said Manas Mukherjee.

Mohan has nearly lost hope of attending the meets abroad. But his friends have not. His yoga coach and teachers and students at his school, Gangnapur Uchchataro Madhyamik Vidyalaya, are trying to collect money for his trips.

“In Hoshiarpur when the officials told him to arrange for the money, Mohan told them to drop his name and came back home. After we came to know this we decided to help him. He passed higher secondary this year from the school and was admitted to Majhdia College,” said Subhasish Majumder, who teaches English in the school.

“We have also approached our current and old students to help Mohan,” he added.

The effort paid off, but the money collected is nowhere near the amount required, Majumdar said.

“The amount collected would be around Rs 60,000. We are quite hopeful to arrange at least Rs 20,000 more to meet the expenses for the Kuala Lumpur trip, but we don’t know about the Paris trip,” he said. An appeal by Mohan to state sports minister Madan Mitra has not yielded any response so far.