Rolling with the punches

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Living in a shanty in Porvorim, 19-year-old boxer Sameer Kenchikera strives hard to provide
for his family by taking up odd jobs, while simultaneously managing his studies, as he
dreams of making it big in boxing

DANUSKA DA GAMA | NT BUZZ

“Why should I waste time now since there are no classes and there’s need for money everywhere?” asks Sameer Kenchikera, who has been taking up a bunch of odd jobs like being a domestic help, a helper for a masonry job, or a daily wage labourer in Calangute.

Originally from Davangere in Karnataka, Kenchikera’s family moved to Goa for better prospects, when he was very young. But despite having an older brother, the family tends to rely on the lad, despite him being the youngest of nine siblings (two sisters died).

And for him, trying to make his family happy and be there for his married sisters is what matters the most right now. “There are problems everywhere, and having grown up with problems within the family, I have developed some sense on how to make peace and sort out issues,” says the young boxer.

In fact Kenchikera began boxing when he was 14 years old. Sharing how it came about, the lad says that as a kid he was quite naughty. “To channel all that energy, my PE (Physical Education) teacher in school asked me to join boxing which was offered in school,” he says. Since then he has represented the state at national level.

He believes that most boxers in Goa today, as observed, are from the lower socio economic strata. “We are born rough and tough. We are not shielded and protected like the rich and high class people and thus we have that daring attitude and fearlessness which is required in the ring,” he says.

Currently pursuing his second year Bachelor’s in Commerce from Vidya Prabhodhini College of Commerce, Education, Computer and Management, Porvorim, Kenchikera’s aim is to join the Armed Forces and serve the nation. Apart from it being a government job, the army, he says, also gives ample importance to sports. And Kenchikera hopes to someday represent India on an international platform for boxing.

“We Goan boxers have technique, and stance, what is missing is proper diet, and stamina,” he says adding that being known as a boxer around his area helps in warding off fights and unnecessary attention.

And he doesn’t feel scared living in Goa, for he feels that there’s no other state that is as welcoming and secular. The bonding between communities and people is always there, but is taken advantage of by politicians, he feels. “I haven’t faced racism in Goa till date, but I don’t know about the future. ‘Allah hi jaane!’ ,” he says, pointing towards the sky.

He also bonds well with members from other religious communities. “My best friend Chotukumar Singh is a Hindu and my sir is a Catholic and we have never had problems. In fact Chotu likes to learn about Islam and would keep Roza too,” he says, adding that one should learn good things from other people and religions, and no religion is bad.

“My friends never discriminate on the basis of religion and treat me equally. They are like my brothers more than friends,” he adds. He believes that there is one God, and people should unite though we travel on different paths. Unity can help achieve anything, is what he believes in.

However, what he has faced is discrimination on the basis of economic status. “Whether in school or college, the moment people come to know that we are poor as we used second hand clothes and live in small rooms that are temporary, they tend to look down on us and don’t expect us to climb up. This is within our religion and everywhere too,” he laments.

He recalls how his family’s economic status had a major role to play recently when his nephew died in an accident. “No one was willing to check him in the hospital. The police were slow,” he says, adding that he will do all it takes to get justice for his nephew who has left behind a widowed mother who has turned frail and weak.

“I work now and earn some money so I can buy Electral, and some nourishing food for her, and recharge the television so she can watch some comedy and distract herself. There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he adds, as he shows us cuts and bruises he’s got due to work undertaken.

Currently however, his mother has been stuck in their native place in Davangere for over six months. “This is life, this is family. She wants to unite with her daughter who needs her the most, but the time isn’t right, “he says.

Kenchikera doesn’t know what the future holds in terms of career, sports, life, and success but goes by the teaching of Islam and says that it’s imperative to support one another irrespective of your social status or physical situation. “Family is the most important thing in one’s life. I feel if there is no family there is no life.”