The Great Gama

The wrestling legend ate six pounds of butter and did three thousand pushups a day.

The Great Gama was great. He was the strongest, toughest, most disciplined man on earth. He ate six pounds of butter and did three thousand pushups a day. His body was a tourist attraction and his skills as a grappler were unmatched in the thousands of years humans spent wrestling one another before his birth. 

The Great Gama was great, but he was not a tall man. He stood only five foot seven inches -- much shorter than many of the oddballs and monsters he defeated in the ring. 

He was born in Amritsar, which is now part of the Indian state of Punjab. But he lived most of his life in Lahore, which is now part of the Pakistani state of Punjab. He was born a Muslim, but the Great Gama transcended religion. The Great Gama had a name: it was Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt. He also has an origin story befitting a superhero, or a tall tale, which is what the Great Gama has become. His parents died when he was young, and he was mostly raised by an uncle who was a wrestler. Soon his talents were discovered. Soon he was sent to train under the guidance of a local maharaja. 

He traveled the world on steamships and railroads. He took on the best of America and the best of Europe. He laid waste to entire continents. Nobody ever defeated the Great Gama, but a few men wrestled him to a draw. Sometimes, he would go years without a match because nobody was willing to wrestle him. Slowly, he began to wrestle less and less. He turned fifty years old, and then sixty. 

In 1947, just before the Great Gama turned seventy, the British Empire partitioned his land into two countries. The newly imposed border between India and Pakistan ran right through the region that was Gama’s home. Everything was aflame. Millions of people were displaced, killed, injured. 

It was too much for Gama. He was born a Muslim, but he transcended religion. When Muslim rioters attacked Hindus near where the Gama lived in Lahore, he slapped them down -- literally and figuratively. He stood before them with a group of wrestlers at his back. The city stood still around them. Then he paid for the victims’ safe passage to border. The Great Gama transcended religion. The world was full of brothers and sisters. 

He wrestled for a few more years. But by then the Great Gama was an old man. The world was full of brothers and sisters and boxers and pretenders. No amount of pushups can stop time. Gama died in 1960 at the age of 82. He was still great then. He only becomes greater with each passing year.

This has been Vol. 14 of Sports Stories by Eric Nusbaum (words) and Adam Villacin (art). If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please reply to this email or contact enusbaum@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you. 

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