Covid-19 Health Crisis: India’s Anirban Lahiri steps up to support relief efforts

Anirban Lahiri Macau OpenIndia’s Anirban Lahiri has not touched a golf club in over two weeks and he doesn’t mind it at all. More importantly, the PGA TOUR star has touched lives during these unprecedented times caused by Covid-19.

Currently in Hyderabad with wife Ipsa, one-year-old daughter Tisya and his parents, the 32-year-old said there is so much more to sports as the world grapples with a health crisis. Like many others, India is currently in lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 and Lahiri has stepped up with a few initiatives to help bring some relief to those afflicted.

Firstly, Lahiri pledged a donation of Rs.700,000 (approximately US$10,000) towards the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM CARES) Fund last weekend. He said he wanted to help millions of people who survive on daily wages but are currently out of work following the lockdown.

He has also sought to bring some respite via a new video cooking series aptly titled “Cooking with the Lahiris” on his social media channels. To date, Lahiri has uploaded two cooking lessons, which focuses on his favourite Indian dishes. His Twitter acount is @anirbangolf and @banstaa on Instagram.

“In these grave times that we face today, I urge my friends and brethren to join me in doing our bit to support those in most need. I have pledged Rs.700,000 to the PM CARES Fund and also support 100 families through the Zomato Feeding India initiative. In any way, big or small, let us play our part in helping the nation. Jai Hind,” Lahiri tweeted on Saturday.

With India’s Covid-19 cases breaching the 4,000 mark on Tuesday, Lahiri’s mind is no longer preoccupied by golf. He feels for daily wage earners who are hardest hit by local businesses shutting down.

“We have food and shelter and our family is secure. Whatever we can do to make it easier for others, help these people and the government, let’s do it as very few entities are operational now. A lot of sports organisations and other Indian athletes are supporting this which is good to show solidarity,” said Lahiri, a former Asian Tour No. 1, by phone.

“A lot of people are severely affected here. The daily wage workers, the migrant workers from the different states … they need to have some form of daily income to keep their lives going and the PM CARES Fund is used for this specific reason which is to provide food. I’ve read stories about people walking for five to six days to get back to their villages after their workplace closed. There are a lot of extreme cases of people having no shelter, food or money.”

When Lahiri, who is based in Florida, arrived home nearly a month ago, life was still pretty much normal and he spent 10 days with his coach Vijay Divecha in Ahmadebad, working out fixes to his game which has gone off track over the past 18 months.

Subsequently, the health situation worsened and led to his country shutting down. The ensuing days hit Lahiri into a sense of realisation of what everything means to him. “For most of us, golf is our life. But there is a larger picture outside of that which we miss,” he said. “To spend this much time with my daughter and wife, and with my parents is really nice.

“I haven’t spent so much time with my parents since I was 17 years old. It’s given me more perspective outside of golf. In fact, I don’t have my golf clubs with me now. It’s nice to hit the pause button and reflect on things which we wouldn’t normally do.”

During his down time, Lahiri has also resumed his yoga practice. “I started yoga again … today (Monday) was my fifth session in six days. It’s nice to see my body responding to it. I’ve not been disciplined with yoga over the last few years as golf has basically taken up all my time. When you play well, you kind of create more time to do things to support it and when you are not playing well, you spend time working on your game, putting or being at the range,” he said.

“I’m lucky I’m still flexible and I’ll be turning 33 in a few months’ time. If I devote the right amount of time and attention to it, I can see my body responding well and it helps with focus and balance. I’m pushing myself a bit more, which is a good challenge. It’s nice reconnecting with my body.”

When the current 2019-20 PGA TOUR Season came to a halt last month, Lahiri made five cuts from 12 starts, with a best finish of T44. His last top-10 was posted at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November, 2018 and Lahiri needed to regain his TOUR card through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last season after finishing 178th on the FedExCup points list.

Needless to say, the enforced shutdown has given him the time and opportunity to hit the reset button. “I was already at a stage of reassessing my goals and processes even before this break. My golf has been poor to say the least and it was a matter of going back to the drawing board. Spending 10 days with my coach gave me a good sense on what I need to do to get to where I want to be,” he said.

“I do miss playing golf but I don’t miss it that much. It’s funny. As a sportsperson, we mentally prepare ourselves for what is to come. If I’m leaving for four tournaments on the trot, I prepare to get into that space and ensure I don’t miss my family. I prepare mentally for it. With this break, I’m just keeping myself occupied with a little bit of cooking, yoga and some light weights training. As we’re living in an enclosed housing society which is quite large, I can go for some runs outside. And I pretty much enjoy being a stay-at-home dad. I’m trying to stay positive and look at things as best as possible. Everything is green right now in India which is one of the good things happening in our country and animals are coming out in areas which no one has seen anything like that in their lives.”