In what could be described as a hard-touching irony, Mangesh Mhaishune of Mumbai mends shoes for a living and his daughter Sayali sprints barefoot to win gold medals at school level. One of the best joys you could get as a schoolkid would be to come first in a sprint, be it 100-metre, 200m, 400m or 3000m. Sayali experienced this unparalleled joy when she claimed her maiden gold medal by completing 3000-metre run in 12:27.8 seconds in the Under-17 event at the District Sports Office inter-school athletic championships.
Hours later, when her father heard the good news, he was repairing shoes and polishing wornout dull footwear at his shop in Dadar. “I knew she was representing her school at the athletics meet. I wanted to go, but couldn’t because feeding my family is more important than going to watch her run,”
He was elated with his daughter’s feat but rues that he can’t shut his shop during the day to watch a glimpse of his daughter winning laurels for her school. Mangesh earns between Rs 3000-10,000 a month.
“Whatever little I earn goes into my two daughters’ education. My elder daughter Mayuri (17) is doing a diploma in Information Technology, while my wife Savita keeps ill frequently. Sayali though, has made me very proud today,” he said.
For the 9th-standard student Sayali, competing barefoot at the Priyadarshini Park was an arduous task. “I’m used to training barefoot at the Naigaon Police Ground track. As I practice on mud, running on this rough synthetic surface was very tough. The track was very hot too as our races were around noon. Around the halfway mark, I was dehydrated, but somehow kept running. I didn’t expect to win a medal, my aim was simply to finish the race. Spikes would have definitely helped me run faster here,” she said. Sayali also races in other state-level competitions in Maharashtra which involve prize money in a bid to earn some extra cash for the family.
Mangesh cannot afford expensive gifts for his proud daughter but vowed to bring home her favourite chocolates and encourage her as she hopes to represent the country one day.