Nagpur's Irshad Ahmed, 37, won the International Carrom Federation Cup at Pune's PYC Hindu Gymkhana in December 2019. Today, however, he is struggling to earn his basic livelihood.
For over two months, his auto rickshaw, his only source of income, has not been plying due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
"I used to earn around Rs 600 daily by driving my auto but due to the lockdown, no one is travelling, so I have no income. My savings are exhausted. Somehow, I am managing to survive with my family thanks to some generous friends and relatives," Irshad said.
Irshad alone earns for his family - his parents, wife and three children.
In the IFC Cup last year, which is considered to be the mini World Cup of carrom with players participating from as many as 16 countries, Irshad beat two-time World Champion Prashant More of Mumbai 3-25, 25-14, 25-24.
"I'm very grateful to Prashant, who requested a few international carrom players like UAE's Mohammed Azam, USA's Vishal Kalangutkar and England's Mohammed Ali besides Mumbai's Alimodin Mulla and Amey Kulkarni to help me financially. I'm most thankful to them too," Irshad added.
Despite repeatedly requesting the Vidarbha Carrom Association (VCA), his state body, for a job, he has been turned down.
"Whenever I win district or state-level tournaments and politicians felicitate me, I request them for a job but nothing has materialised so far. I represent VCA at the National Championships and have won several tournaments for them. I feel they must help me find employment," Irshad said.
VCA secretary Prabhjeet Singh Bachher claimed that they have reached out to political leaders, requesting them to help Irshad.
"Girish Vyasji, patron of the All India Carrom Federation, and myself have met union minister Nitin Gadkariji and requested him to provide jobs to some of our top carom players, including Irshad. We will be meeting Gadkariji again in a couple of weeks and are hoping for a positive response," he said.