Walker Ram Baboo’s inspiring journey from a remote village to the podium

His father was a manual labourer, and he belonged to the tribal Kol community, and hence climbing up the social ladder was difficult.

The village of Bahuara Bhairawa, 98 kilometres south of Varanasi, is so small and remote that it does not even seem to show up on most maps. It has two temples, a school and a post office, and last October, it found a hero too, Ram Baboo, the joint bronze medalist in 35km-walk at the Asian Games.

The long walk from his village, tucked in the bowels of the sprawling Sonbhadra District, the second largest state of Uttar Pradesh, to Hangzhou in China, where he made his nation proud, was extremely strenuous and a path he had not imagined. 

From early teenage, he used to dream of being an athlete—a marathoner, before his knees began to groan—after seeing pictures of Olympians in a Class VII textbook. But it was an impossible dream—his village did not have the infrastructure, his parents could hardly accommodate money to maintain that could encourage his sport. 

His father was a manual labourer, and he belonged to the tribal Kol community, and hence climbing up the social ladder was difficult.



Baboo speaking to The Indian Express, calls those days consisted of acute hardship. He said, “I never had a good diet because I couldn’t afford it. My family doesn’t have the resources. We don’t even have a water pump in our house. We have to walk a kilometre to fetch water.”

But Baboo was so determined to make his life and career as an athlete (as a marathoner first) that he travelled to Varanasi when he was just 17 so that he could afford access to train in a stadium. There he met Chandrabahan Yadav, his first coach. But to make ends meet, he doubled up as a waiter in a nearby hotel. With the measly sum he saved from the odd jobs, he bought his first pair of sports shoes. Two years later, in 2019, he left Varanasi. But he managed to get himself enrolled at the Sports Authority of India centre in Bhopal. 

Once the pandemic subsided, he resumed chasing his dream. He went to Bhopal again and in the first tournament post lockdown, the National Race Walk Championship, he clinched silver in 50km walk. It helped him enter the Army Sports Institute in Pune with the help of coach Basant Rana.



Thereafter his career soared. He shattered the 35 km national record in the 2022 National Games in Ahmadabad, rewrote the mark at a meet in Slovakia, and topping it all, won bronze in the continental event. The plaudits earned him fame, rewards and recognition. 

He was promoted to a havildar in the Army, industrialist Anand Mahindra offered the family a tractor or a pickup of their choice, and he is building a pucca house. But the walk from Bahuara Bhairawa Gandhi to Hangzhou was long and arduous.

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