Written by Nitin Sharma, Mihir Vasavda, Shahid Judge, Shashank Nair, Devendra Pandey, Shivani Naik, Gaurav Bhatt
The Pandemic year locked them in quarantines but athletes around the world found resilience to call time on people-pleasing and discovered their moral voice to say NO. Gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Naomi Osaka and Virat Kohli spoke their minds and defied convention. The year also saw athletes discover the full potential of social media – not just the big names but even the hitherto unknowns from small towns became stars in their own right. There were also some breakthrough performances that will stand the test of time. The hockey captain who reawakened a country’s nostalgic pride, a Mumbai-born New Zealand cricket returned to his roots to create history, a badminton star who finally learnt how to marry art with commerce, and the man who launched his gold-plated javelin to quench a nation’s thirst.
1. Ashutosh Gupta (26, Delhi) Swimming coach Circumstances of death: After testing positive for Covid-19 during the second wave, Gupta passed away while waiting to get admission into a New Delhi hospital. Survived by: Parents, wife, brother, sister 🟥 Gupta, a swimming coach at a government-run facility in Central Delhi, was the main earner in the family. His father, 57, works as a security guard at a private firm while brother juggles his time between his studies and part-time job. Aid received: Rs 50,000 from Delhi govt. What the family wants: “After he died, we have had problems paying even our house rent in time. There is an immense burden on us,” says Ankit, Ashutosh’s brother.
‘DAY AND A HALF TO FIND BED’ 2. C Shanmugam (80, Bengaluru) National water polo player Circumstances of death: Developed health complications after testing positive for Covid-19. Survived by: Wife, daughter and three sons 🟥 While the family isn’t in need of any financial help, they feel that the bronze medal-winning 1982 Asian Games water polo team should have received better treatment. Aid received: None What the family wants: “We spent one-and-a-half days to find a hospital bed for him since they were giving priority to those aged below 45 years. He served the country, he was a President Awardee for his services yet the government was blind to everything. Had the government helped us when he was ill, perhaps my father would have been alive today,” says son Madhi Alagan.
‘CAN’T LET DATA GO TO WASTE’ 3. Baboolal Goverdhan Joshi (67, Sehore, MP) Hockey statistician Circumstances of death: Covid-19 complications. Survived by: Wife and two sons. 🟥 Both the sons are employed and the family is financially secure. Aid received: None. What the family wants: The family sits on a wealth of hockey data; the sons aren’t sure how to preserve their father’s legacy. “He invested his entire life for this, we can’t let it go to waste,” says son Shravan.
*** Former BCCI scorer Krishan Kumar Tiwari. (Express Photo)
‘NO SUPPORT FROM BCCI, DDCA’ 4. Krishan Kumar Tiwari (52, Delhi) BCCI scorer Circumstances of death: After failing to find a bed in New Delhi during the Covid-19 second wave, Tiwari was moved to AIIMS Jhajjar, where he passed away. Survived by: Wife, two daughters and a son. 🟥 A known name in Delhi’s circles for over three decades, Tiwari has covered 4 Tests, 5 ODIs, 60 Ranji games and over 50 IPL ties. His death has resulted in the family facing a financial crisis. Daughter Shubhangi, an LLB graduate, lost her law firm job during Covid. Now she is practising independently. Aid received: None What the family wants: “I was working for a Delhi-based lawyer, but due to Covid and the limited litigation cases. My father worked hard all his life for our own house that got completed in October so we have shifted there. No support from BCCI or DDCA so far,” says daughter Shubhangi.
‘WILL KEEP HOSTING TOURNEY’ 5. Pramod Sood (62, Delhi) DDCA member, tournament organiser. Circumstances of death: Passed away following a heart attack while undergoing Covid treatment at a hospital in New Delhi. Survived by: Mother, wife and two sons. 🟥 The family isn’t facing a financial crisis but the sons’ aren’t sure if they can continue organising the tournament that their father had supported for the last three decades. Aid received: None. What the family wants: “As long as I am alive, the tradition started by my father of hosting the cricket tournament that has churned out over 50 first-class cricketers will continue,” says son Jatin.
‘CLEAR LOAN AMOUNT OF 7 LAKH’ 6. Jagdish Lad (34, Mumbai) International bodybuilder Circumstances of death: Covid-19 complications impacting blood pressure and oxygen levels. Survived by: Parents, wife, daughter and younger brother Santosh. 🟥 Unable to afford the Rs 19,000 rent, the family has moved to the parents’ home at Kundal, Sangli. Aid received: A local politician gave Rs 60,000 and Bodybuilding federation also supported. What the family wants: With the gyms closed due to the pandemic, 34-year-old Lad had switched to coaching his bodybuilding trainees online. Santosh, 28, who is also a fitness trainer, is out of work. “Abhi toh main ghar pe hi hun. Bhai had several students. He had all the contacts, the clients.” The family’s pressing need is to somehow clear the remaining loan amount of Rs 7 lakh on the house in Kundal.
‘HOPE SON RESUMES EFFORTS’ 7. MS Nazar (60, Chennai) Basketball coach Circumstances of death: After getting admitted to hospital, it took 5 days for a CT scan. Following pneumonia and organ failure, he passed away. Survived by: Wife, daughter and son. 🟥 A reputed coach Nazar helped TN state team win silver medal at nationals, he was also involved in the district-level administration of the sport. While the family carefully saved money all their lives, Nazar’s son is a Civil Services aspirant. Aid received: None. What the family wants: The family hopes that Nazar’s son clears IAS. “It’s been challenging to motivate him to try ICS again after his father’s demise. He’s a bright boy, but this has brought the whole family a lot of grief. I just hope he resumes his efforts to clear the exams,” Nazar’s brother Nissar, says.
*** Dattatray Dudam is credited to shape 45-50 small grounds across the city for mallakhamb training. (Express Photo) ‘RUDDERLESS WITHOUT HIM’ 8. Dattatray Dudam (60, Mumbai) Mallakhamb champion & coach Circumstances of death: Admitted to the ICU, Dudam was on a ventilator for 3 days . Survived by: Wife and two daughters. 🟥 One of Dudam’s daughters works as a mallakhamb coach, the other is a graphic designer. He worked for Railways, so the family will receive pension. He is credited to shape 45-50 small grounds across the city for mallakhamb training. Though, he never charged a fee. Aid received: None. What the family wants: “As a family we barely made ends meet. He worshipped Mallakhamb and believed no one who wishes to learn the skill should find it difficult to learn because of a fee. He put together a robust system and equipment for players in far suburbs remains an incomplete dream of his. We are quite rudderless without him,” says daughter Deepali.
‘NOMINATED TWICE, NO DRONA’ 9. Balachandran Nair, (71, Thiruvananthapuram) Badminton coach Circumstance of death: Five days after testing positive, his condition deteriorated rapidly and he passed away Survived by: Wife and two daughters. 🟥 Nair also worked for the state sports council and was later appointed as SAI coach. He mentored the likes of V Diju and Vimal Kumar. He was especially effective coaching juniors on overseas tours. Both the daughters are working. Aid received: None. What the family wants: Twice nominated for Dronacharya Award, he missed out on both occasions. “He lived and slept badminton. He didn’t have any time for anything else throughout his life,” says daughter Prija Chandra V. The family feels his contribution to the game must be acknowledged.
‘NO POSITIVE REPORT, NO BED’ 10. Kamlakar Zende (68, Pune) National-level cyclist and coach Circumstances of death: Despite his dipping oxygen level, Zende was refused admission to two hospitals as he didn’t have a Covid test report. He would get a hospital bed late at night. He passed away next morning. Survived by: Wife, son, daughter. Son Prashant is a technical fitter with Railways . Aid received: None. What the family wants: Prashant says that the hospitalisation could have been easier and should be taken care of by the general public. “For one whole night, we struggled to get our father admitted to a hospital due to various reasons including a positive test report required late at night. Before they could test him, he died. Such things should not happen in the case of a pandemic. A race can be held in my father’s memory,” says Prashant.
*** Anupama Punchimanda with her husband MS Mandanna. (Express Photo) ‘THERE IS FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL’ 11. Anupama Punchimanda (41, Bengaluru) Former India Jr player and umpire Circumstances of death: A week after testing positive for Covid-19, she had a heart-attack while in home isolation at Bangalore. Survived by: Husband. 🟥 After Anupama’s death, her husband lost his job. He has now moved to his village Bethu to cut down on expenses. Aid received: None. What the family wants: Anupama’s husband MS Mandanna has a heart condition and needs urgent financial help and a job. “There is a fight for survival and I don’t want to blame Hockey India or any government. But in such conditions, support in any form could have been provided,” he says.
‘WISH THERE WAS SUPPORT’ 12. Talwinder Singh (67, Patiala) Curator, Pandove Stadium in Patiala Circumstances of death: He passed away at hospital about 8 days after testing positive. Survived by: Wife, son and daughter. Son works as a police prosecutor in Australia. Aid received: None. What the family wants: As of now, no pressing financial need but son says things could have been better. “While my father retired seven years ago and mother shut down her business twenty years ago, I just want to say it could have been better if there was support,” said Singh’s son Garry.
‘DAUGHTER’S STUDIES INCOMPLETE’ 13. Suresh Thakur (56, Chandigarh) Hockey umpire Circumstances of death: Tested positive for the Covid-19 virus in April, passed away two weeks later. Survived by: Wife and daughter. Family lives in a rented house, daughter is still studying. Aid received: None. What the family wants: Thakur’s wife will get pension from the bank where her late husband worked. “My husband had left umpiring due to a heart problem. Education of our daughter apart from bearing expenses for rent and other things remains a need for us,” said Thakur’s wife Sunita Thakur.
‘LIVE IN RENTED HOME’ 14. Virendra Singh (47, Meerut) Hockey umpire and manager Circumstances of death: Had cardiac arrest following Covid complications. Survived by: Wife, son and daughter.
🟥 Singh worked as a Deputy Chief Ticket Inspector with Northern Railways. Wife struggling to manage the studies and upbringing of pre-teen children. Aid received: None. What the family wants: Urgent financial aid needed as the family stays on rent. “My son is ten years old while my daughter is eight years old. Apart from that, my husband’s parents also stay with us. We have to see that both my children get education. We are staying in a rented home and the savings too are not that big,” said Singh’s wife Neetu Singh.
‘NEED FUNDS FOR SCHOOL’ 15. Narender Sharma (49, Meerut) Weightlifting referee Circumstances of death: After testing positive for Covid-19 virus, Sharma and his father died on the same day. Survived by: Mother, wife, daughter and son. 🟥 Singh, who was the vice president of UP Weightlifting Association, owned a school in a village near Meerut. With the school shut due to pandemic-forced lockdown, the family that has two pre-teen school going children struggles to make ends meet. Aid received: None. What the family wants: Wife needs funds to restart the school. Apart from that, the wife needs monetary help for the education of their two children. “I lost my husband and father-in-law on the same day. Both the pillars of our family are gone now and we are still in a state of shock. While there is a need to fund the education of my children, I also worry about the school, which my husband and I run in a village near Meerut,” said Sharma’s wife Archana Sharma.
‘WAITING FOR JOB’ 16. Ajay Rastogi (58, Mumbai) Billiards and Snooker referee Circumstance of death: Died in hospital. Had a railways job. Survived by: His father, wife and two sons and a daughter-in-law. 🟥 At the time of his death, Rastogi was the only working member of the family. His elder son worked for Thomas Cook in the tourism industry, and younger son worked for Cars24. Both lost their jobs due to the first lockdown and have struggled to find work since. Presently, the family survives on Rastogi’s father’s pension, but the family is yet to clear off a home loan. Aid received: None. What the family wants: “We’re still trying for my elder son to get a railways job because Ajay was still working, he hadn’t retired. (They lost their jobs when the pandemic started), but nothing has happened till now,” says wife Seema.
‘WAS SOLE EARNER OF FAMILY’ 17. Kunal Lonkar (33, Nagpur) Former Vidarbha cricketer Circumstances of death: After being in hospital for a week, he passed away. Survived by: Parents, wife and son. 🟥 Lonkar had given up cricket and was working in a real estate company. He also used to take care of the uncle’s farmhouse. His coach Sameer Deshpande said he was the sole earner of the family. Aid received: None What the family wants: “He was the sole earner of the family, he even had a small child. It will be very tough for the family. It will be going to be very tough times ahead for his family,” says coach Deshpande.
‘THIS HAS PUSHED US BACK’ 18. Vilas Bandiwadekar (63, Mumbai) Former Mumbai Umpire Circumstances of death: Developed fever after vaccination. Admitted to hospital as the fever didn’t subside. Passed away following Covid-19 complications. Survived by: Daughter. 🟥 Known as Bandy Sir in Mumbai cricketing circles, he conducted various umpire exams for MCA for the past two decades. Daughter is currently working in Thomas Cook. Aid received: Mumbai Cricket Association gave 50,000 rupees after he got infected. What the family wants: “He was an earning member and the void has pushed us back financially,” says daughter .
‘LOST BROTHER, FATHER’ 19 & 20. Subhash (73) & Indrajit Kanulkar (40) – Mumbai Represented Mumbai as juniors Circumstances of death: After the entire family got infected by the virus, Subhash had to be admitted to hospital. A week later son Indrajit too was admitted. Covid complications resulted in their death. Survived by: Mother, wife and a son 🟥 A popular maidaan cricketer from the 80s Subhash’s son Indrajit played for CCI. Indrajit’s wife is BMC auditor. Aid received: No What family wants: “It’s hard to say at the moment. Suddenly losing two of our dear ones and not even getting a chance to say good-bye has been a painful experience. On the 12th day of my father’s ritual, I lost my brother, it has been a terrifying experience,” daughter of Subhash’s Neha said.
‘PASSED AWAY IN AMBULANCE’ 21. John Alphonso (71, Mumbai) Football coach Circumstances of death: After testing positive for Covid-19, Alphonso got a hospital bed with great difficulty. With his oxygen levels sinking, he needed to be moved to ICU. “After trying to find beds in multiple hospitals, he passed away in the ambulance. The death certificate said that he had a heart attack,” says Alphonso’s wife. Survived by: Wife, son and daughter. n Alphonso’s wife, a teacher who retired in 2018, is currently receiving her pension. Aid received: None. What the family wants: “I know my husband died. It’s impossible to get him back. But this pandemic really needs to end,” said Alphonso’s wife.
‘SISTER’S WEDDING A WORRY’ 22. Vazir Khan (61, Hyderabad) State footballer Circumstances of death: Khan complained of stomach and chest pain. A test showed that he had Covid, died after 21 days Survived by: Wife, son and three daughters. 🟥 Vazir’s son is pursuing his B. Com degree. Family expects pension and gratuity from SBI, where Khan worked. The family is relying on their uncle to help out with financial matters. Aid received: None. What the family wants: “Our biggest worry is my sister’s wedding and where the money for it will come from,” said Vazir’s son. He added that his hope was that the extended family members will help them financially when the need arises.
‘IF YOU CAN FIND ANY JOB, THEN PLEASE LET ME KNOW’ 23. Kiran Deo (42) Mumbai Umpire Circumstances of death: Lost taste and subsequently had breathing problems. Survived by: Wife, daughter and son 🟥 The family’s income depended on Deo officiating games. Because of the lockdown there was no cricket so the family had been facing tough times since last year when the pandemic began. Kiran’s wife Vidya had also lost her job as receptionist at a cricket club. Aid received: MCA gave aid of Rs 50,000. Former MCA managing committee member Ganesh Iyer initiative of ‘Lending Hand’ gave aid of Rs 1,85,000. What the family wants: “I’m desperately looking for a job now. I did receive help but this won’t last long. If you can find any job for me then please let me know,” Vidya stated.
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