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Twelve-year-old Udham Singh has taken a knock to the head from a stray, powerfully hit ball. The seniors check for serious injuries. But the only consolation Udham now gets, silent tears streaming down his face, ice pack clutched to his head, is: “Sher ko chot nahi lagti (A tiger doesn’t show pain)”.

Sports?—?such as wrestling, archery and kabaddi?—?has long been a modest ticket to a better life for small-town India. For the girls of Shahabad, that ticket is hockey. Jasjeet Kaur, 25, followed sister Rajwinder into hockey, and at 17, got a job with the Indian Railways. “If it wasn’t for hockey, I wouldn’t have a job, even if I’d been a brilliant student.”
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