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Along The Grand Trunk Road

Wrestling In Kanpur

NPR Correspondent Phil Reeves, Producer Nishant Dahiya and photographer Kainaz Amaria were travelling on India’s Grand Trunk Road when they came across a wrestling academy in Kanpur. Phil Reeves brings us this postcard:

There is nothing unusual about being 17 and angry. But Arjun Kumar Thakur has found a novel form of anger management.

Every evening, and early mornings, too, Arjun works out in an outdoor gym on the banks of the Ganges — the Ganga, as it's known in India.

He pumps iron next to an open sand pit where portly professional wrestlers train. Monkeys scamper back and forth. As evening falls, prayers begin at the nearby cluster of riverside temples, accompanied by bells, drums and chanting.

Argun is small and compact, with a mop of floppy hair. He is so muscle-bound that his friends tease him by comparing him with the iconic Bollywood action hero Salman Khan.

Arjun is angry because his parents have banned him from seeing his girlfriend. He says they are both very strict. Marriages are usually arranged in India, and the love of his young life happens to be the daughter of a friend of his father's.

Arjun says he is eager  to leave his hometown — the north Indian industrial city of Kanpur — to explore the wider world. He wants a job on India's railways. But before being considered for a position, he must pass an exam. Competition for railway jobs is intense. Arjun wants to be a ticket collector — a  job that, in this populous nation, attracts many thousands of applicants.

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