After his record weight of 405kg in the over 109kg category at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Pakistani Muhammad Nooh Dastgir Butt, 25, sought out the bronze medalist Indian Gurdeep Singh. This was not the winner of Pakistan’s first gold at these Games, gracious to the camera, but friends who wanted to share their moment of glory.
Much later, away from the gaze of the media, the two would party well into the night, sharing their joy with their favorite Sidhu Moosewala songs playing in the background.
The same taste in music as well as a common culture and native language had led the two strongmen, from the two Punjabs on opposite sides of the India-Pakistan border, to bond as they competed against each other on the international circuit.
The hitchhikers born 250 km apart – Nooh in Pakistan’s Gujranwala and Gurdeep in the village of Majri Rasulra in Khanna district – go way back. They may have tried to outdo each other since childhood but didn’t allow cutthroat competition to affect their friendship.
“Gurdeep and I have been very good friends. After the gold, I first congratulated Gurdeep and later we had a little party where we danced to Moosewala’s songs,” Nooh tells The Indian Express from Birmingham.
Gurdeep also shared the same feeling. “Nooh and I first met six years ago at the Junior Championships and shared tips on nutrition. Talking in Punjabi has clearly helped our friendship,” he said.
If they don’t compete, they still keep in touch. Like in May of this year, when a concerned Nooh called Gurdeep.
“When I saw the news of Sidhu Moosewala’s death, I messaged Gurdeep to confirm. In my home gym, where I train, I played songs like Jatt Da Muqabla and the recently released Song 295 to set the pace for my workout,” said Nooh, who comes from a family of weightlifters.
From an early age, Nooh had heard stories from his father, Ghulam Dastgir Butt, a 16-time national champion of Pakistan, about his travels around the world and the friends he had made in the country they were told was hostile territory. used to be.
He often referred to India as a friendly nation where Pakistani players were always given a warm welcome. It did not match the more common narrative of bitterness being spread by the media of the two nations that have waged several wars since the Partition.
Butt Senior had visited India in 1987 for the South Asian Federation Games in Kolkata, where he won the gold medal. He is excited to get a call from across the border on a day when his son won gold in a match where India won bronze. The elder Butt takes the time to speak to the local media to get on the phone and express his joy in Punjabi.
“I am amazed when people say that India and Pakistan are born enemies. The amount of love and respect India has given me, we also love Indian players and Hindustan the same. I often talk to my Indian friends like Manjeet Singh and former Secretary of the Indian Weightlifting Federation Balbir Singh. Actually, my day starts with reading their ‘good morning’ messages,” he says.
Nooh’s India experience was no different from his father’s either. “I have visited India twice and attended Pune and Guwahati. The kind of love India has given me, no other country has given me. I have more fans from India than Pakistan in the weightlifting community. When I left the hotel in Guwahati, the staff and volunteers were crying. It made me emotional,” says Nooh.
The dad, whose brother Babar Butt was also a noted weightlifter, says it’s a shame stories about Indo-Pak bonhomie aren’t coming out. “If there is an incident of hatred, it is played out, but rarely do people talk about stories of friendship between people of two nations.”
On their big day, Butt’s household is busy telling the story about the son.
“Nooh was 12 years old and his younger brother was eight when I started them lifting weights. Whatever tantrums they had or how much they cried, I acted as a coach, not a father. I remember when Nooh was competing in a tournament at age 14 and the barbell fell on his feet and broke the bone. I had him train sitting down and bench press and pre-press because I didn’t want him to miss the workout,” recalls the older Butt.
Mother Firdaus Dastgir and her two daughters Unsa Dastgir and Sajda Dastgir would never complain. Since Firdaus’ brother Ijaz Butt was also a serious weightlifter, she encouraged her two sons. “My wife understood my coaching and she would never complain because I would take both boys to training. Later I decided to make the gym on the ground floor of our house when Nooh fell off the bike once,” says the father.
Nooh’s younger brother, Hanzala Dastgir Butt, also competed in the CWG in the same category as him, but finished outside the medal class.
As for the tough tutor’s father, the goal is to see his son win an Olympic medal. “Inshallah he can win an Olympic medal, but for that he has to do all the hard work. He can relax by having his favorite biryani one day a week, except that Lays (chips) is with every meal, but we must not forget the purpose,” says the proud father.
Nooh is also a big fan of Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu. “Besides my father, I love Olympic silver medalist Mirabai Chanu. She is the torchbearer for all of South Asia and the kind of impact she has made in world weightlifting makes us proud too.”