He is the first Indian to turn out in the elite US National Basketball Association (NBA) league and has represented the country on foreign shores. But there is one thing that Satnam Singh Bhamara rues — no one from the Indian government ever called him to appreciate his work or congratulate him for his achievements.
He said there’s a need for the Indian government to provide monetary help for building sports infrastructure in the country.
“The government needs to think about them (the country’s sportspersons) or else they will think there is no life in India. Talking about supporting and motivating talent in the country, the government or any minister from India has never called to appreciate my work,” Bhamara, who plays for the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, told IANS in an email interview from Dallas.
“I have played with so many players in India, none of them ever called or sent a text to appreciate or congratulate me for my work. It is about the respect for the game and not about anything else. I want other players to promote the game in India as much as they can and get the attention it receives,” he added.
The 7′ 2″ Bhamara, who hails from Barnala in Punjab, created history in 2015 by becoming the first Indian to get drafted into an NBA side.
A documentary titled “One in a Billion” chronicles his journey to become the first Indian-born basketball player drafted into NBA.
Bhamara felt the government should provide monetary help for sports infrastructure and promote the game in India. “I will continue to do my bit for promoting sports in India but the government’s support will be an added benefit. It should work towards providing better opportunities to kids,” he said.
Hailing from a small village, Bhamara had to go through much turbulence, like the language barrier, to make a name for himself in sports.
Looking back at his journey from Barnala to Texas, Bhamara said: “I faced a lot of difficulty initially, especially in terms of studies. When I was in India, I didn’t know the importance of studies.
“I used to go to the farm with my father or used to play. When I got a scholarship and came to the US, I understood how important it is to study. I saw players giving interviews and interacting with the coaches in English. Coming here from Punjab, I had to study English from scratch. I was lucky enough to receive help from coaches and teachers.”
And he has not forgotten his “desi” roots. Bhamara hopes to open a basketball academy in India, and wants Indian children to master the English language.
“Whenever I get the chance to come back to India, I would like to open an academy in my name for poor kids not just for basketball but for other games also. It will have all the facilities that my academy has here in the US,” he said.
Bhamara also said it will “have an English medium school, good teachers, coaches and basketball players”.
“Kids will be allowed to stay and study in the academy itself. I will also try and get opportunities for them to go abroad for further studies and sports training.”
After making his dream a reality, he now wants to fulfill his father’s dream.
“I remember telling my father that we will have a big house one day. I wish to make them proud and fulfil everything that my family wishes for. It is my father’s dream to travel by air, which will happen soon when he comes to the US,” he added.
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Sugandha Rawal