GUWAHATI, July 12 � Wrestling legend and actor Dara Singh had a close involvement with Assam, and not many would know that his wrestling bouts in Guwahati were a fund-raising endeavour by the late RG Baruah for construction of the Nehru Stadium.
And the lion-hearted strongman was gracious enough not to charge anything for his appearance in the wrestling events, as he was devoted to contributing to a noble cause.
During the 1960s, Dara Singh � along with several national and international stars � featured in three wrestling exhibitions in Guwahati. All were huge successes, drawing jam-packed crowds and earning substantial returns which were used for the cause of the stadium.
The Nehru Stadium was opened on July 16, 1962. Dara Singh took part in his third and fourth wrestling events in Guwahati in the Nehru Stadium. His earlier events were held in the Church Field.
RG Baruah, the founder of The Assam Tribune group of newspapers and a keen sports enthusiast, had a personal association with Dara Singh. During his stay in Guwahati, Dara Singh used to be a personal guest of Baruah.
Reminiscing about the bouts featuring Dara Singh, his brother Randhawa, King Kong, Mighty Mongol, Killer Zapata, etc., sports organizer Bhuban Lahkar said, �Dara Singh was a well-known name among the State�s sports-loving public in the 1960s and 1970s � thanks to RG Baruah�s initiative that saw holding of as many as three wrestling events, followed by another under the aegis of Jyotirupa in 1978.�
Lahkar said that the Dara Singh had an arresting personality and enjoyed a huge fan following. �After RG Baruah had introduced him to Assam, Dara Singh started taking keen interest in the development of sports infrastructure in Assam. He charged nothing as profit for his appearance in the wresting bouts in Guwahati, and was very happy to have contributed to the cause of the stadium,� he said.
�The three bouts yielded in total Rs 1,10,000 � a substantial amount in those days � and was utilized for the stadium,� Lahkar said.
Veteran journalist and sports organizer Premadhar Sarma said that by holding the shows featuring Dara Singh and other top wrestlers, RG Baruah introduced the sporting-buffs of Assam to a new genre of sports.
�It was RG Baruah�s ingenuity that saw the holding of a completely new kind of wrestling event featuring international stars. People liked it a lot, and it contributed towards developing some much-needed sports infrastructure in the State,� Sarma said.
Recollecting his association with Dara Singh, Sarma said that he had met Dara Singh twice during his shows in Guwahati.
�It was quite an experience to have met Dara Singh. A giant in physical stature, he had a personality that was affable and drew people instantly towards him. He used to take a lot of interest in the sporting arena of the State,� Sarma said.
Dwelling on how RG Baruah had put up a lot of effort towards publicizing the wrestling events, Sarma said that before the events, sports journalist Pulin Das used to report extensively on the physical attributes and often-exaggerated food habits of the wrestlers.
RG Baruah even used to distribute handbills from a sports-plane of Assam Flying Club ahead of the events.
�All this had the desired impact and made the sports-loving public to throng the wrestling venue in their hordes. It was an altogether new experience for them, and they cherished it like never before,� Sarma said.