January 29, 2017 5:08:07 am
A tiny two-room apartment in Shahpur Jat locality, through which narrows lanes run, is where Dingko Singh, a former Asian Games gold medallist boxer, is recuperating after a life-saving operation. It’s almost a decade since 1998 Bangkok Asiad winner retired but little did he know then that his biggest fight lay ahead of him —a battle with liver cancer.
The 38-year-old Manipuri, who became a national hero after returning from Bangkok, has been diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He underwent a procedure in the first week of January, during which 70 per cent of his liver had to be removed.
The first signs that all was not right came with a bout of jaundice in August. Further examination at the All India Institute of Medicial Science in New Delhi concluded that the father of two was suffering from cancer. “Only my brother and me knew. We didn’t want to tell him initially,” Dingko’s wife Babai Ngangom says.
To raise money for his treatment, the former Navy man had to sell his house in Imphal. “We have already spent Rs 10 lakh so far and are really worried how we will manage the money for treatment. We definitely need help,” Dingko’s wife says.
Ferocious and talented but volatile are the adjectives scribes in the ‘90s would often use while writing on the boxer.
There are reports, which the boxer also confirms, on how he went binge-drinking after his name did not initially feature in the squad for the ‘98 Asian Games.
But it was a very different person seated upright on the cot in the second-floor apartment. Calm, polite and eager to talk, Dingko recalled his glory days.
“Jab medal ke sath aaya toh, sab salaam thokte the ( When I returned with the medal people used to salute me). Now that I am undergoing this difficult phase, no one, but a handful of friends, are by my side,” Dingko says. “It hurts,” his wife Babai adds.
She stayed along with Dingko at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences for 20 days after the operation. He was discharged on Republic Day and moved to a friend’s house.
Dingko’s chemotherapy cycle will begin soon. He has received Rs 50,000 as advance from the Sports Authority of India and hopes the rest of the expenditure will be reimbursed soon. “Selling the house was the only option. It was a difficult call to make,” he says with a hint of regret.
Keeping emotions in check
During the course of the conversation, he showed no signs of discomfort, it’s probably something he learnt in his early years as a boxer. Babai, on the other hand tired to her best to keep her emotions in check.
“I couldn’t sleep all night before his operation. I thought I would go insane but I told myself that we will not lose this battle. This has been a tough period for us,” Babai says.
They find comfort in each other’s company. The couple break out in laughter when asked how they met.
“Bahut ladkiyan peeche padi thee, bahut There were so many women who were crazy about me. But I had already decided,” Dingko says. The couple had promised to marry each other in their teens. They have been married for sixteen years now.
“After the medal, he became so popular, but he didn’t forget me. I admire him for that,” Babai says.
A doctor privy to Dingko’s treatment believes he will be fit to resume coaching in a few months after completing his chemotherapy cycle. “ He was very fit. He recovered really well. But there are always chances of recurrences, but we can’t say anything for certain. His cancer was at a very advance stage and 70 per cent of his liver had to be removed,” said the doctor who requested anonymity.
Dingko, as always, hasn’t given up. He still has the heart for a fight, all he is asking for is a helping hand.
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