Duniya se koi matlab nahi hai.”

Jagmohan Siwach doesn’t find any other way to describe his son’s nature. Sitting in the courtyard of his house, Jagmohan says this with no expression on his face, just like his son.

Saurabh Chaudhary may not get involved much in the outside world but he has made the world stand up and take notice, most recently at the shooting World Cup in New Delhi two weeks ago.

Making his debut at the senior World Cup in February, Chaudhary shot a hard-to-believe score of 245 in the final. He won the gold medal in the 10m air pistol event and an Olympic quota for India.

His shooting has left everyone speechless though. At 16, he has both the senior and junior world record to his name. Interestingly, his junior world record of 245.5 is even better that the senior one.

At the same World Cup, he won another gold medal in the 10m pistol mixed event with Manu Bhaker, another teenager shooting sensation from India. But no one among those teen star-shooters have announced their arrival like Chaudhary has. More than his shooting, it’s the calm and monk-like personality that stands out. In a sport that demands stillness, Chaudhary is a natural. Many have tried to understand his world and what goes into such high-quality shooting. Many have failed too.

Uski duniya uske dimag ke andar hai [his world is in his mind]. Even we have not fully understood him and his nature. He just needs his pistol and the shooting range and that is all he cares about. He doesn’t fuss over anything else,” Jagmohan says.

There were a few example of Chaudhary’s non-fussy attitude at the World Cup. During one of the media interactions, the journalists would try hard to get words out of his mouth, but most of Chaudhary’s answers were limited to one sentence.

“Saurabh what was your routine today before the competition began? What did you eat for breakfast?”

“I ate food,” he would reply with everyone else bursting in laughter. “Some juice. Routine was similar as other days.”

“What did you do between qualification and finals?”

“I just rested,” he replied with a straight face.

It’s similar to his shooting – as straight as it can be. As he rests his pistol before taking his first shot, he take a deep breath, says a small prayer and bang.

Chaudhary’s tryst with shooting began five years back, when as an 11-year-old he first went to Amit Sheoran, the coach at the shooting range in Binauli, 15 kms from Kalina. He accompanied a friend and from the next day, he was a regular. He would leave for the range at seven in the morning and return around sunset. The first month of training did not involve any pistol.

“We had just a few pistols in 2014. So it was not possible for everyone to do shooting. So the students used to practice position and strengthening their hands and wrists,” Sheoran says.

Amit Sheoran [Far right] training other students at his academy. Credit: Vinay Siwach.

A brick would be hung from a shooter’s wrist as they keep their arm in shooting position. This was a long, tough exercise – some would even call it old school – and Sheoran insisted on discipline and dedication.

Chaudhary also had to do it all. But when he picked up the pistol and began shooting, Sheoran was shocked.

“His scores were too good. In three or four months, he showed he can bring good results. I asked his brother Nitin to buy the pistol for Saurabh because I knew he will do well in the coming years,” he says.

Buying a pistol was another tough decision that the Siwach household had to take. After a lot of discussion, they decided to buy a pistol for Rs two lakhs, money that was raised via a loan.

“We had a discussion among the family members and it was decided we will buy it. Saurabh now has two pistols but he shoots with the first one only,” Nitin says.

With that began the rise of Chaudhary the shooter. He would break a long-standing record in the north zone before entering the youth national team and even before even anyone could know, he was India’s top pistol shooter.

“He has been like this since his childhood. He did not talk much to anyone or went out to play. The whole family shares the same nature. He generally stays home, in his room,” Jagmohan says.

Also read: How Saurabh Chaudhary had a perfect World Cup debut

It’s the same room that once had Chaudhary’s makeshift range. It was between two rooms located at opposite ends. Chaudhary placed a target on the wall of his room and walked across the hallway to the opposite room and marked a point to shoot from.

The targets are gone now but the damaged wall, blackened by the constant hitting of the pellets, is still there.

“After returning from his practice, he would want to train at home as well. There were too many people at the practice range, so he was never satisfied. So we decided to make this range between the two rooms,” Nitin says.

Chaudhary would practice there during the night. But that was another problem for the Siwach household.

“The sound of the pistol would disturb everyone. The neighbours would come the next morning and ask what was happening in the night but slowly everyone got used to it,” he says

It was the dedication towards shooting that defines Chaudhary’s success. He is almost invisible in his village Kalina. That is something in his nature and not a development after he took up shooting.

“We used to tell him to sleep because he had practiced enough but he would ask us to sleep and said that ‘I will sleep at my time’. Sometimes he would sleep with us but then wake up around 11 pm and start shooting again,” his brother says.

The shooting journey is full of anecdotes which Saurabh barely mentions. Sheoran also remembers the early days when the teenager was surprising him every day.

“I told him to wring a wet sack two times a day because if as a kid if you do it more your hands start shaking. But he would do it four times in the morning and same in the evening. He is just unbelievable,” Sheoran says.

His peers had the same thought when he began shooting.

“The kids at the range used to ask ‘where have you practiced before?’ They were startled by his scores and thought he was lying. But the truth is that before 2015, Saurabh had not even seen a pistol,” Nitin recalls.

Chaudhary’s family didn’t know anything about shooting either. It was only after he took up the sport that his family learned about the game. Since then, everything in the family has revolved around his shooting.

Saurabh Chaudhary's new shooting range. Credit: Vinay Siwach

Before the World Cup in February, the biggest worry for the family was to find a new shelter for their cattle. The earlier ones were now being turned into shooting range.

“There were too many kids at the academy and little space. Saurabh needed a range of his own. A range at home would save the time he travelled to Binauli and back. In the winters, it is better to avoid that,” Sheoran says.

The newly-constructed 20m long room, enough for a 10m range, is Chaudhary’s training ground. The range has one manual and one automatic target, two chairs and just enough space for two people to observe him. It is the same range where the 16-year-old practiced before winning the gold medal at his first senior-level World Cup where he won the gold medal in the 10 m air pistol event.

There is little need of an observer though.

“Even if you are sitting behind him while he is training, he is unaffected. He keeps practicing, you don’t realise if it was a good or a bad shot by looking at his face,” Jagmohan says.

As is the case in most meteoric rises, Chaudhary’s career calls for unwarranted comparisons. Many believe that he is an exact copy of Jitu Rai, winner of multiple medals at World Cups and Commonwealth Games champion. But he failed to medal at the Olympics. Since Rio Olympics, Rai has fallen off the map and is now not even part of the national team.

Sheoran believes Chaudhary is not a one-time wonder or just for the Tokyo Olympics. “The preparation is not for Tokyo Games. It is beyond that. This boy is not for one Olympics and then done. He is yet to attain his best.”

Saurabh has already earned the Olympic quota and it is just a matter of shooting good score to be on the flight to Tokyo. But has he peaked too early?

“He is in the best form no doubt. He will break many records. This is not even the beginning. We have everything in place till Tokyo. No one can stop him,” he says.

Looking at the medal-winning spree he is on, you tend to believe Sheoran. He has seen Chaudhary rise and yet, remain the same shy, quiet boy as he was in 2014. The only difference is, Sheoran knows that there is very little he can do now.

“I am proud that he remains the same and has not forgotten what he was taught. There may be someone in the future who is similar to him. But Saurabh’s level is different. How can one be so alone, so silent? The way he has made himself, no one can. Ab iski ungli mere hath mein nahi, uske hath mein hai [His future isn’t in my hand anymore, it is in God’s hand now].”