A poverty-stricken farmer`s son from a nondescript village in Rajasthan`s Alwar district, Rati Ram Saini has come a long way as he realised his first target of winning a medal for the country but he now yearns for financial support to move forward in his career as well as feed his family of six.
Saini, who won a surprise bronze in men`s 10,000m race in the Asian Athletics Championships here, says with just Rs 20,000 a month he earns as a railways employee, he barely manages his career as well as raise his four daughters.
The 33-year-old long-distance runner is from Dera village at Reni Tehsil in Alwar district. He has been working as an electric technician at the Northern Zone Railways in Lucknow since 2006.
"I have four daughters and my wife is just a house wife at my village. We don`t have a proper house. We stay at a kucha (mud) house. It`s difficult to raise four daughters with just Rs 20,000 per month salary. The oldest is in class three and I barely manages to run my family," Saini told PTI in an interview.
"I have to take care of my training also. I have to buy my running shoes, which cost around 8,000 to 9,000 and it`s difficult for me. I need financial support from the government or the corporate houses. I heard that some athletes are being sponsored by corporate houses," he said.
Saini, who won a bronze in his first international competition, says he also has to share the responsibility along with his three other brothers, of looking after his father who recently became incapacitated after falling from a tree.
"My father raised four of us by toiling hard as a farmer. Now we have to look after him. Unfortunately, he cannot work now as he has become disabled after an accident," he said.
Saini did not blink an eye and straightaway said that he took up to long distance running as he heard about prize money in marathons and half marathons.
"My father had to struggle a lot money and so I took up to long distance running to earn money. I heard that marathon runners get money if they win," he said.
In 2004, he won the 5000m race in National School Games and then next year he won gold in 5000m race in the All India Inter University Championships at Tinnevelly in Tamil Nadu, representing Rajasthan University. He was also adjudged the best athlete.
In 2006, he joined Railways but he ran only cross country till 2010 when he switched to 10,000m race and won a bronze in Delhi Half Marathon. He won Jaipur Marathon twice in 2012 and 2013.
At the national competitions, he won a bronze in 10,000m in the Federation Cup in Patiala in 2012 and bagged a silver in the National Inter-State Championships last month in Chennai, which earned him a place in the Indian squad for the Asian Championships here.
"I don`t have a personal coach at Railways in Lucknow. I often go to my village to train under my school coach Sabarpratap Chauhan. I go without pay sometimes. Now I am at the Bangalore National Camp which will continue till September 15.
"The Athletics Federation of India gives the track suits but not the shoes. So I have to buy those costly Adidas and Nike shoes. It`s a struggle for me," he said.
Saini has some reasons to be happy as he will get financial incentives from the government for winning a bronze in the Asian Championships.
"Yes, that is something I am happy about. My family is also very happy about my achievement. I am looking forward to doing well in the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games," he said.