Human Interest : Slept in a tent, sold pani-puri, now plays cricket for India Under-19

A 17 year old – Yashasvi Jaiswal will play for India when the Under-19 team will tour Sri Lanka to play 2 Tests and 5 ODIs that starts on 17 July.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Jaiswal talks about his struggles in finding a shelter in the “City of Dreams” – Mumbai, earning some bucks by selling pani-puris and his dream to play for India.

Yashasvi, the younger of two sons to a small-time shopkeeper in Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh moved to Mumbai to pursue cricket at a tender age of 11. His father did not object since he had a mouth less to feed. He had an uncle, Santosh, in Mumbai but his Worli house wasn’t big enough to accommodate another person.

At first, he lived in a dairy at Kalbadevi. After playing cricket the entire day, he would get tired, go to sleep and won’t help his dairy co-workers. As a result, he was thrown out of the dairy.

His uncle then requested Muslim United Club to allow him to sleep in a tent along with the groundkeepers of Azad Maidan. For 3 years, the tent became his home. Jaiswal took excruciating pains to ensure that stories of his struggles never reach home.

Sometimes, his father would send some money but that wasn’t enough. To earn extra bucks, he sold pani-puri during the Ram Leela in Azad Maidan and help sell fruits. There were many days when Jaiswal slept on an empty stomach.

“During Ram Leela, I earned well. I prayed that my teammates would not come there for pani-puri. Sometimes they did and I would feel bad serving them,” he says.

He tried his best to keep some money coming in. He would play games with older boys to earn Rs 200-300 to survive a week.

“I always used to see boys my age bringing food or their parents had big lunches with them. As for me, it was — khana khud banao, khud khao. No breakfast. Catch hold of anyone around and request them to buy breakfast,” he recalls.

“I remember the days when I was almost shameless. I used to go with my teammates for lunch, knowing that I didn’t have any money. I would tell them, ‘paisa nahi hai, bhook hai’.” he says.

Before he got picked for Mumbai the U-19 squad, a local coach Jwala Singh met him and took him under his wing. Jwala Singh was himself a celebrated youth player and an immigrant from UP as Jaiswal. Jwala Singh saw his youth in Jaiswal.

“He must have been around 12 years and I saw him facing an ‘A’ division bowler with ease. I could relate to him. When I also came to Mumbai from UP, I didn’t have a house to stay in. No godfather, no guide. He is gifted. He has 49 centuries in the last five years,” says Jwala.

Jaiswal now stays in a chawl in Kadamwadi. When asked about the mental pressure of higher-grade cricket, he says “You are talking about mental pressure in cricket? I have faced it daily in my life for years. Those have made me strong. Scoring runs is not important. I know I will score and take wickets. For me, whether I get the next meal or not, that’s important,” he says.

Jaiswal’s story is an inspiration to everyone. It underlines the fact that a poor, a small towner can definitely achieve his dreams with determination and hardwork.