Jyoti Mal shows her gold medal. (Sudeshna Banerjee)
Happiness coursed through the one-room Mal house in a Howrah village on Monday as daughter Jyoti returned home after 10 months, cast in gold.
Weightlifter Jyoti, from Boubazar village off the Kona Expressway, struck gold at the Commonwealth Youth Championship in Malaysia last week. The 17-year-old had won silver in the same event at Cape Town in 2011 and a silver and a bronze in the Asian Youth Weightlifting Championships at Doha in May.
“My heart was set on gold,” said the soft-spoken girl.
With her was another gold medallist, Chandrika Tarafdar of Nadia, whose story Metro had highlighted on November 27, 2012. They follow in the footsteps of Chandrika’s club mate Rakhi Haldar, who had won gold in the Oceania & Commonwealth Junior Championships of 2012.
While Chandrika won in the 44kg category, Jyoti’s gold came in the 58kg group.
“My total lift of 160kg was the same as a Malaysian girl’s. I got the gold as my bodyweight was less,” Jyoti said.
While Jyoti’s family was delighted at her achievement, they didn’t have the means to celebrate it. Father Chanchal works in a pipe factory and mother Sakuntala is a zari worker.
Chanchal has been unable to go to work since Puja because of poor health and Sakuntala’s weekly income of Rs 350-400 is hardly enough to feed the family.
“My parents can’t help me much. My coach supports me,” Jyoti said.
Ashtam Das, a 39-year-old weightlifter-cum-trainer who quit a government job so he could continue with the sport, had taken Jyoti under his wings when she was 12.
They had first met after Jyoti’s impoverished parents sent her to stay with her uncle, next door to Ashtam’s.
“Sir called me to join the boys he was training. Years later, when I started to lift well, he would buy me meat, eggs and vitamins before tournaments.”
Ashtam earns little as a log slicer in a wood factory, but he trains his wards for free in an open field with equipment rejected by the local Andul Biswanath Club. “This sport is not for the rich. They can’t fight with the iron weights,” Ashtam said, showing the scars on the necks of his students caused by a damaged lifting rod.
With the national championship starting on December 22, Jyoti is not resting on her laurels. “I need to qualify to retain my place at the national training camp in Patialas,” she said, back for practice in the afternoon.