KAPURTHALA: Krishan Pathak, the back-up goalie for the Indian team at the upcoming Asian Games, learnt to fight tough battles in very hard places. His father, Tek Bahadur, was a crane operator in Kapurthala after having migrated from Nepal and could barely make ends meet. To supplement the family income, Krishan moved debris at construction sites.
If this life was not tough enough, he lost both his parents before turning 20. The 21-year-old hockey champ lost his mother when he was 12, and his father only two years ago. Both suffered heart attacks in their sleep. In fact, his father died just six months before India triumphed in the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup in which Krishan was the country’s lead goalie.
” Kahaan se shuru karun, abhi tak to puri life uncertain hi rahi hai (My life has been uncertain so far). I am an orphan now. I have no one waiting for me at home. I am not sure if I have a place, which I can call home. I have suffered so many setbacks in my life; had it not been for hockey, I may have landed in the clutches of drugs,” Krishan tells TOI.
“That said, I am living my dream and I am playing hockey for the country. And, that’s the only thing that gives me satisfaction,” he adds.
Krishan lives in a rented accommodation with his uncle Chandra Pathak in Kapurthala. The house is a small one, and Krishan’s room is even smaller with an asbestos roof.
In July 2016, two days before he had to fly for his maiden international tournament – a seven-match series against the English junior team – Krishan received the devastating news of his father’s demise. He decided to stay onboard and represent India and missed the last rites.
“That was very difficult, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. I called my uncle and both my sisters (who live in Nepal). They didn’t force me to return; in fact, assured me that I should stay on and play for the country,” recalls Krishna. “Harendra sir gave me permission to go home; but I wanted to show my mettle.”
Harendra Singh, the current chief coach of the senior national team, was then the coach of the Indian junior team. “I told him to go and assured him that his place in the team won’t be in jeopardy, but he said, ‘sir papa ki iccha thi ki mai India khelun (my father wanted me to represent India)’. That time, I realised that he is mentally very tough, and he is a warrior,” says Harendra. The coach has high regards for Krishan. “His reflexes are brilliant; and the kid has immense hunger to improve his game. He is definitely one for the future.”
Facing hardships as a child
Krishan was born in April 1997 in Kapurthala. His father had migrated from a village in Nepal in 1990 in search of a job. Krishan joined Jalandhar’s famous Surjit Hockey Academy when he was 12. Two months after he joined the academy in Jalandhar, his mother passed away “Whenever my father used to visit me at the academy hostel, he would remind me of the sacrifices our family made. He also used to say that I will play for India one day. I never had such confidence in me, but he always had,” Krishan says.
“When he first came to the academy, he didn’t have any interest in hockey. But his father told me, ‘I want to see my child play for India’. I am happy that I could keep the promise that I made to his father,” says Avtar Singh, the head coach of Surjit Hockey Academy.
Punjab government fails to keep promises
Krishan Pathak was one of 10 players from Punjab, who helped India win the 2016 Junior Hockey World Cup in Lucknow. The Punjab government had at the time promised Rs 25 lakh each for the players. Krishan is still waiting for that amount, which was assured by the state government. He wants to build a house for himself.
“I stay with my uncle; he also lives in a rented accommodation. I wish to have a house of my own. The amount that was promised would have been really useful; but, these things are not in our hands,” said a visibly disappointed Krishan.