On Monday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted India’s Olympic contingent for breakfast at his residence at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, on the menu was churma, humble Haryanvi fare.

PM Modi served the simple but rich dish, made out of creased roti with a generous amount of sugar and ghee, to javelin star Neeraj Chopra, who became the first individual Olympic gold medalist from India since 2008. Having hurled the javelin to a distance of 87.58m at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium earlier this month, Neeraj entered a high-class club of individual Olympic gold medalists from India, with a previous occupancy of just one (rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra who won at Beijing 2008).

After Neeraj’s gold, he told a leading media house in an interview that one of the first things he wanted to eat in India after coming home was his homemade churma.

Ever since Neeraj and other Indian athletes landed in India after playing a part in the country’s most successful Olympics campaign, where they won seven medals, there have been a cord of felicitation events lined up for them. The javelin thrower finally got his wish of having churma at Monday’s breakfast event with the nation’s prime minister.

Not just Neeraj, churma is a dish many of India’s top athletes — such as wrestlers Bajrang Punia, bronze medallist in 65kg weight class, and Ravi Dahiya, silver medallist in 57kg category — have grown up loving. In fact, when Bajrang got home with his bronze medal, his mother and sister-in-law welcomed him with a bowl of homemade churma.

Given the nature of their pursuit of a medal at the Olympics, and the sacrifices it requires, the sugar and ghee-rich fare was something athletes had to desist from eating.

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Joydev Mishra


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