New Delhi: Wrestling stands apart from all other combat sports as it shuns violence but is still the manliest of sporting events, says a new book which is a journey through the 'kushti' landscape of India, both past and present.
'Enter the Dangal: Travels through India's Wrestling Landscape', by Rudraneil Sengupta, explores wrestling as it is practised now in India; the men, women and events that have shaped its history from Gama to Sushil Kumar, whose two Olympic medals yanked the sport out of rural obscurity and on to TV screens.
"The author says the focus of his book is to tease out the lived experience of Indian wrestlers now, to share their daily life, their struggles and beliefs and their oral tradition. The historical references are used as a storytelling tool, to give context and depth - when needed - to the stories and beliefs that are an integral part of the wrestling philosophy," he says, adding his work is neither a book of history nor a scholarly investigation.
'Enter the Dangal: Travels through India's Wrestling Landscape', published by HarperCollins India, goes behind the scenes to the 'akhadas' that quietly defy urbanisation.
It also travels to villages and small towns to meet the intrepid women who dared to break the barriers in this 'manly' sport.
Wrestling, according to Sengupta, is a demanding sport and it demands the kind of biomechanical mastery that can only come from years of training, beginning from early childhood.
"It calls for exquisite co-ordination of every moving part of the body. It needs quickness, brute strength, explosive power, preternatural balance, gymnastic agility and endurance. A single move can open itself to a hundred different possible permutations and combinations of counteraction," he says.
He also says that wrestling stands apart from all other combat sports as it is a fighting form that shuns violence, allows no hitting or no punches, kicks, knees or elbows.
"You do not batter your opponent into submission, like you would in boxing or mixed martial arts. You don't break ribs, pound heads, harm the kidney, dislocate the nose, or cut open the eyes. The surface you fight on is soft, so a fall doesn't hurt. If you pick your opponent up, you are responsible for his 'safe return' back to the ground. Yet it is the manliest of sports, the very definition of masculinity, and has been used to judge the 'alpha male' from time immemorial," he writes.
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