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Jedhu at extreme left with writer Zeeshan Haider (center) and other pose for a photo after interview for The Educationist

An emerging star of a dying sport

 

Interview By Zeeshan Haider

Interview with Pehalwan Amjad Jhedu

 

Janis Pur is a small village located in the Southern suburbs of Bahawalpur city. The village despite its quite and calm outlook is enshrining an Akhada (a place of wrestling) which is known to all Pahalwans in Punjab as Shoran-wala Maidan. This is a place far different in its choice of sport as compared to rest of the country. Pahalwans here are the superstars.

Pahalwani is a type of free style wrestling which is widely popular in

A ‘Pehlwan’ drags a wodden plank to prepare the mud ground for the game

Pakistan and India. Amjad Jhedu is a wrestler in fifth generation of his family tradition. His family has a history of winning distinctions in this sport which spans over 150 years.

Amjad today is a rising star in Pakistan. He is ranked as third among top Pahalwans in Pakistan. His consistent winning streak has brought him close to becoming Number One if he wins his next event, which was scheduled in October 2017 but delayed due to some reasons. Despite so many victories and accomplishments his heart laments for his comrades who became victims of government’s negligence and indifference towards plight of this glorious sport. A brief interview with him revealed the

pain he feels for the dying tradition of pehelwani in Punjab.

 

The Educationist: What aspired you to become a Pahalwan? Was this a family

Jedhu, at extreme left

tradition?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu:  My great-grandfather participated in few events and tried his luck for a little while. Then my grandfather Khan Muhammad Pehalwan joined this sport and made it his profession and since then our family has never looked back.

The Educationist: What made your family famous in this field?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu:  My father Taj Muhammad Pehalwan, was an Olympian. He represented Pakistan in Olympic Games in 1968 along with Sardar Pehalwan.It was held in Mexico. My father was known by his ring name “Taja Pehalwan”. He stood second and brought Silver Medal for the country.

 The Educationist:Did the tradition of wining in global events continue in your family?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: Unfortunately after 1968 government withdrew her support for professional Kabbadi-wrestling at Olympic level. Nobody after my father represented Pakistan at Olympic level. So no one got any opportunity to win at such a platform.

The Educationist: What motivated you to dive headlong into murky waters of Pahalwani?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: It happened primarily because of my father. It has been nine years since his death. He was pride  of our village. We have respect in society because of him. That’s the reason we are trying to keep his spirit and his passion alive by continuing the family tradition.

The Educationist: Generational professions are mostly taken forward by elder brothers but in your case a younger brother has taken the charge of affairs. What was the reason?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: We are seven brothers from two mothers. My elder brothers Afzal and Akmal also compete on national level. All of us have worked hard in this sport. Every one of us is a competent wrestler. It’s all about luck. I was blessed by Almighty Allah that I excelled and won big events. But it does not change the fact that we all tried to do our best.

The Educationist: Tell us something about this place, what does it matter to you?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: This Akhada is more than 150 years old. My great-grand father had chosen this land for Akhada. It is our fifth-generation using this place. We prefer not to use any other akhada. One of my disciples has made another one nearby recently. But this one is the central and iconic in this district. It has hosted many Mega-Danggals.

The Educationist: What is your training schedule and what especial exercises you do which help you excel?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: I wake up before the morning prayers. After offering prayers I enter this Akhada after reciting dua for success and improvement. But before it I raise religious slogans. My daily exercises include 4000 sit-ups, 150 push-ups, lifting and dragging 80 kg woodenPlank, running around the ring and various exercises for building muscles. After that we hold friendly matches to polish our skills and improve our tactics.

I have defeated countless players, some of my biggest duels were against Mattar Mochi, Kaleem Pehelwan, Umer Pahalwan JaranWala, Aurangzaib Pahalwan. My biggest  victory came when I defeated Azam Lurka recently. Then I was fortunate enough to be enlisted in Pakistan Army. Now I play for Pak Army as well. I have made Pak Army proud by winning a Gold Medal for Pak Army at national level


The Educationist: We always hear that Pahalwans eat a lot. What is your diet?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: Yes, I have a special food routine. When I enter Akhada in morning I am served Poosa. It is a drink made of peculiar herbs. After doing exercises for couple of hours I drink Almond Shake (BadamkaBota). Meanwhile I continuously eat various seasonal fruits. At afternoon I take my lunch. Lunch must include mutton. Sufficient consumption of mutton is vital for keeping the balance of proteins which in turn helps build strong muscles.
I take rest and wake up at 2:00 pm for prayers after which I like to drink milk shake of any fruit available. Finally I chose to have light dinner. Other things I consume include chicken, butter, vegetables etc. All of my diet elements are actually ‘Desi Food’. They are pure and full of nutrients.

The Educationist: What are your biggest title victories?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: In civilian life I have defeated countless players. Some of my biggest duels were against Mattar Mochi, Kaleem Pehelwan, Umer Pahalwan JaranWala, Aurangzaib Pahalwan. But my biggest  victory came when I defeated Azam Lurka recently.
Then I was fortunate enough to be enlisted in Pakistan Army. Now I play for Pak Army as well. I have made Pak Army proud by winning a Gold Medal for Pak Army at National level.

The Educationist: What is your next biggest bout?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: My next biggest duel is against Zahid Pehelwan. He is famous because he has defeated Rustum-e-Pakistan Billu Pahalwan Sheikhupurawala, who was number one in Pakistan. He has fought against the biggest in the business. If I manage to overpower him in the upcoming match I will be on top in Pakistan Insha’Allah.

The Educationist: In this sport India and Pakistan are considered arch rivals. You have fought against Indian players. What difference do you think exists between their and our players and techniques?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: The crucial thing is talent. The amount of talent that Pakistani Pahalwan possess is nowhere in the world let alone India. Indians have an edge because their players have government’s full support and recognition. In a sharp contrast we make, prepare, fight and feed on our own without any support from the government. See for yourself, how much Pakistan invests in cricket, everyone talks about cricket. If a fraction of that fund, support and appreciation was diverted towards Kabaddi and kushti Pakistan would have been number one.

Do you believe this sport can sustain and reach bigger platforms if molded on modern lines?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: In Pakistan there is no thought of modernization or improvement of this sport in the minds of the people in power. Look at India. They have started a new version of Kabaddi which they call Pro-Kabaddi or KPL. They give away cash prizes to players for scoring even a single point. Those who are man of the match are showered with gifts like motor bikes and luxury cars. Now imagine how they have revolutionized this sport and that has boasted the moral of players.

Is the new generation interested in this sport? What is its future in Pakistan?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: We were inspired by our forefathers and now it’s on us to inspire our future generations. Yes, the new generation is coming to this sport. If we close down this Akhada how come the new generation will participate in this sport? But then in the long term if they do not find any institutional support their passion for the sport will wither away.

What is the biggest fear does a Pahalwan has in his mind?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: The biggest fear in the mind of a player is ‘what if after working so hard for over so many years and investing so much in the sport one day one gets an injury which refuses to heal or forces him to retire early’. Without any secondary source of income, institutional support and lack of other skills for earning he will be ruined. Believe me, this is nightmare scenario for every player. I don’t even want to think of it.

Has this sport helped your community in some way?
Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: 
This is cent percent correct. This sport has helped our community a lot. Youngsters who join Akhada pray regularly, stop smoking and never live life of a vagabond. For a true Pahalwan mere muscles are not everything. He should be a man of character. He should respect others so that others would respect him.

 

Indians have an edge because their players have government’s full support and recognition. In a sharp contrast we make, prepare,  fight and feed on our own without any support from the government. Pakistanis take invests in cricket, everyone talks about cricket. If a fraction of the  funding, support and appreciation was diverted towards Kabaddi and kushti Pakistan would have been number one.

 

You talk a lot about culture and values. What is the reason?
Our culture is our identity. We have stopped wearing our traditional dress, we shy away from speaking our mother tongue ‘Punjabi’ and we are after jobs in cities instead of our traditional occupation that is Agriculture. Is this good? Are we doing a great service to ourselves and our people? Are we living a satisfactory life by doing these things? I think we are doing a great injustice to our land, people and civilization.

What is your message to other people? What should we be doing as a nation?

Pehlwan Amjad Jedhu: If we have to become a respectable nation we should preserve and take pride in our culture that unites us all. I will give my whole life to this sport. I will not let any stone unturned to propagate this sport in my region and beyond. That’s what I can do for my country. I will play my part. I expect others to play their role effectively.

 

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