The 'Rags-To-Viral' Story Of 2 Young Kolkata Gymnasts

Days after a video of their somersaults, cartwheels and side flips was widely shared on social media, the duo has been discovered in Kolkata's dock area.

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Only equipment Ali and Lovely have to train on is a big tyre


Kolata: 

The rags-to-riches story of the past has now got a modern day twist. It has now become rags-to-viral story, and starring in the latest blockbuster are two young gymnasts-- 11-year-old Lovely and 12-year-old Ali.

Days after a video of their somersaults, cartwheels and side flips was widely shared on social media, the duo has been discovered in Kolkata's dock area. Both are from impoverished families, living humbles lives.

"What did you have for breakfast?" Ali was asked. "Cha biscuit," the spindly boy said. Tea and biscuits, surely not what legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci would have ordered for a boy whose eyes sparkle with dreams of winning a gold for the country in gymnastics.

Lovely's mother, overwhelmed with all the attention her daughter has got the family, is in tears. "We can barely afford half liter milk twice a week for my three daughters. How can I help her live her dreams?" she says.

The dream began about 4 years ago when a local youth scouted for talent to join his dance school. Shekha Rao, 26, wanted to be a dancer but he found that his true calling was teaching children to dance and do gymnastics, free of charge.

"There is so much talent in the children. I want to polish that talent with what little I know and then help them make their way to fame," he said.

"Lovely and Ali are hugely talented. I know that. I can't do much for them. I hope after this viral video someone will step up to help them ...the government, Nadia Comaneci even," he says.

His dance class is a one room club house run by the Andhra community in the railway colony in Garden reach. The walls are plastered with pictures of choreographer Saroj Khan, with the children and him receiving certificates and trophies at multiple contests they have participated in the last year.

The floor of the club house is hard cement, no sign of a sand box or a mattress to break their fall. The only training equipment they have is a massive tyre. But the children love hanging out there, before school and after.

Back home, they live in abject poverty. Lovely's mother Reshmi manages a tailoring shop. Her father Taj Khan is a car driver. They earn Rs 14,000 a month, which is inadequate for a family of 5.

Ali's parents are daily wagers at a tea leaf godown and in the same wage bracket as lovely's parents. He has six members in his family.

Both families live in the slums, in tiny rooms proudly kept spanking clean. They don't have enough money to buy a cooking gas cylinder.

"It's a hand-to-mouth existence. No Horlicks (health drink) and milk and other healthy food for Ali. Just rice, dal and sabji, sometimes eggs," Ali's mother says.

Ali loves his gymnastics and his teacher. "I want to be like Sir. Do gymnastics, earn gold medals for my country and teach other children," he says.

Lovely's dreams are as big. "I also want to earn a medal for my country and for my parents who have always supported me. My father said, you are not just my daughter but also my son. Live your dream."

Both Ali and Lovely say they knew of Nadia Comaneci much before she tweeted about them last week. Now they also know Minister Kiren Rijuju.



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