Mehtab Hussain Bareilly’s ‘Bolt’ sprints past odds, but official apathy still a hurdle.
Bareilly (UP): Deaf and mute by birth, Mehtab Hussain, in his 30s, is an athlete of international repute and has won a number of national and international tournaments, including Asia Pacific Deaf Games. Mehtab Hussain, a daily wager at a meat factory in Bareilly, is locally famous as ‘Bolt’— the last name of Jamaican sprinter and nine-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt – for his athletic prowess.
However, his sporting talent and achievements have failed to fetch him a job and the fame he deserves, thanks to official apathy. Despite overcoming his physical disability, financial constraints have forced him to work at a local meat factory to support his family in Chak Mehmood area of Bareilly.
Gritty to the core, Hussain still wakes up at 4am and runs at least 10km a day to keep himself fit as he never knows when his financial condition permits him to participate in sporting events. Hussain’s mother Ashraf Jahan says, “As my daughter was already suffering from hearing and speech impairment, we did not take long to understand that Hussain was also suffering from the same problem. He was only three then.” “His behaviour was very much like his sister. He hardly responded to any sound,” she recalls. Hussain is the youngest among three brothers and a sister. Soon after Hussain’s birth, his father Latafat Hussain, a teacher at a primary school, passed away.
However, Ashraf Jahan didn’t lose hope and got Hussain admitted to a school for differently-abled students in Bareilly where he showed much interest in athletics. “During his school days, he never hired a rickshaw or public transport to reach his school which was 7 kms away. He always preferred to go by foot. Once he bought me a present from the money I gave him for conveyance,” she recalls. After winning innumerable interschool athletic championships, he participated in state-level championship in Faizabad and stood first. “I couldn’t believe that I had overpowered all the other athletes there,” says Hussain, using sign language. Winning the championship fetched him entry to the national-level championship and he became a member of the All-India Sports Council for Deaf (AISCD), the apex body for sports for the deaf. “I participated in national level athletic meet in West Bengal in 1995 and won the 400-metre relay. I was on cloud nine. This was what I wanted,” says Hussain. The period from 1995-2000 proved to be the golden one for Hussain as during this time, he participated in about 22 State and 19 national athletic meets. In 2000, he was informed by AISCD that he has been selected in the 6th Asia Pacific for Deaf, to be held in Taiwan.
“I had to sell a piece of land for Rs 50,000 to bear the expenses. Representatives of the council assured us that the money we spent would be reimbursed, but they did not keep their word,” Ashraf Jahan says.
Hussain, who was the only player from the state to participate in the event, bagged third position in the 5000-metre race. Later, Hussain received several calls from the council informing him about his entry in several international championships but his financial condition did not permit him. Showing letters from the council, Hussain says he got calls from Australia, Italy, Kuwait, Canada and Turkey, but could not go there for want of money. In the hope of playing for his state and country again, Hussain still continues to practice daily before leaving for his 12-hour shift in the meat factory.