It is perhaps symbolic that the famous akhara that many from Pakistan's greatest wrestling family stomped their feet on, is now nothing more than a shrine of sorts. Buried here are some of the most legendary names in the world of wrestling, figures who attained almost a mythical status even as their sport, kushti or mud wrestling slowly faded away from public memory.
But the legacy of the 'Bholu Brothers', Pakistan’s most famous wrestling family, is set for a revival after a gap of almost 22 years, courtesy Japanese great Antonio Inoki. Inoki who fought with Jhara pehlwan, Bholu pehlwan's nephew, in the famous 1979 bout was so taken with Pakistan and the tradition of kushti that he returned regularly to compete in the country. And now the Japanese legend is set to make the ultimate gesture of camaraderie by taking Jhara's nephew, Haroon Abid, under his guardianship in Japan.
Haroon will be leaving for Tokyo on March 26 where he will get rigorous training in free style and traditional wrestling by Inoki who will also bear expenses for the 15-year-old's education.
"After this gesture by Inoki, a hope has arisen that the long standing legacy of Pakistani wrestlers, which came to a halt after Jhara's death, will once again continue," Haroon's father Abid says.
Jhara, whose legendary workout regime is said to have lasted 13-14 hours daily, died in 1991 and after his passing no one in the family really took up wrestling seriously.
"The death of Jhara was a great shock for us. He was wasted in Pakistan," recalls Abid, adding that most members of the family had started a business or found alternative sources of livelihood.
Abid said all hopes were now pinned on Haroon as he was not only going to be fighting for the family legacy but also to keep kushti alive in Pakistan. -Text by Suhail Yusuf