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A brief biography: till 2018
1 Of 6 Siblings, Harish Helps Out At Brothers’ Stall, Drives Dad’s Auto
The sepak takraw world championship in Bangkok is just a fortnight away and Asian Games bronze medallist Harish Kumar is busy serving — not on court but at his brothers’ roadside tea stall in Delhi’s ‘Little Tibet’, Majnu ka Tila. Tea has been the 21-year-old’s ticket to sporting glory. For each one of his 15 medals, he and his family have passed countless steaming cups over the counter.
Five days after the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games ended, Harish’s euphoric return home is a fading memory in the neighbourhood but his celebrity is undimmed. On a wet Friday afternoon, his house in Majnu ka Tila’s narrow lanes is easily found. Being part of India’s first-ever sepak success at the Asian Games has made him a role model for young athletes here.
Harish’s success is all the more inspiring because of his family’s precarious financial situation. His father Mohan Lal drives a rented autorickshaw. His mother, Indira Devi, till recently worked as a household help to bring up Harish and his five siblings, two of whom are sightless. Two of his brothers, Naveen and Tarun, started the tea stall to supplement the family’s income, and Harish not only helps them but also drives his father’s auto when he is not training at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bawana.
They are a gifted family, but have been unlucky twice. Harish’s eldest brother Pradeep was a talented cricketer who became a coach, but had to leave his job after injuring his right leg in a bike accident in 2011. Naveen showed promise as a sepak takraw player and was handpicked by coach Hemraj. He played at the international level, but was forced to quit after a ligament injury in 2013.
Inspired by Naveen, Harish had started playing sepak in 2011 with a ball made of bicycle tubes. Luckily for him, “Hemraj Sir” took him under his wing.