At Geeta Phogat wedding a villages tryst with the real and reel world

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‘Teen ghante ke liye dikhenge do-do Mahabir.’ The headline on the front page of the Sunday edition of a local daily captured the anticipation of a village.

On Sunday, Geeta Phogat — India’s first woman wrestler to compete at the Olympics — got married to fellow wrestler Pawan Kumar. But for Balali, it wasn’t just another wedding.

Balali is a dusty and nondescript village on the highway to Bhiwani. It is easily missable. You stop over at a petrol pump for directions. A middle-aged attendent wakes up from his afternoon siesta. The irritated look on his face makes it evident that he has been asked this several times already.

A convoy of cars has been making its way in and out of Balali for the last three days. But there has been nothing like today.

Forty-year-old Shyam Sundar Sangwan has been counting the number of vehicles that have passed his tiny grocery shop that his located opposite the Phogat residence. “Fifteen. And those were just with Aamir,” he says.

Geeta’s wedding has been the talking point of the village for several weeks. But on the wedding day, the anticipation is more to see Aamir Khan, who is playing the role of Geeta’s father Mahavir in a movie on the family’s wrestling exploits. “He is the biggest person to visit our small village,” Sangwan says.

The women, he adds, were standing on the rooftops of their houses since 11am to catch a glimpse of the actor. Kids climbed trees and walls. The wedding in itself was the biggest ever event the village had ever seen, Aamir’s visit only added to the frenzy.

The actor arrived at around 4 pm after taking a commercial flight and then a chartered one, followed by a long road journey. “He spent around half an hour with the family before leaving. It was the first time he visited the village, although he had met Mahavir and the rest plenty of times before,” a family member says.

Mahavir has shed a few kilos to look like Aamir. The reel life Mahavir, on the other hand, put on a few to resemble the real one.

The local media has reported the tiniest of details for the last few days, most of it on the front pages. It even tells us about Geeta’s grandmom dancing to a Rajasthani folk song during the sangeet ceremony on Friday and Geeta’s honeymoon destination.

Despite the wedding, training wasn’t compromised. At 4am on Saturday, Mahavir and his daughters — including Geeta — continued their routine practice to ensure fitness for the Pro Wrestling League. It is this discipline that has resulted in the Phogats being tagged as the first family of Indian wrestling, women at least.

“They have led the way… so many girls from Balali and neighbouring villages have picked up the sport because of Mahavir,” Sangwan, who has been living in Balali since birth, says.

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