Unleashing the Inner Tigress
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
Why is it that when we put 10 men and 10 women in a room, we observe that 8 out of 10 men have an athletic physique, while on average only 2 out of 10 women are sporty.
At 9 months, she gets a pink bow; he gets a sponge ball. At 5, she gets a cooking set; he gets a football. At 16, she gets make up; he gets a bike.
Why do I see para men coming together to play cricket, while women cook at home?
Do woman really even have a chance?
I was privileged to be introduced to sports at a very early age. During my school and college years I tried my hand at multiple sports. Once I got the taste of winning, I kept wanting to feel it. Not just ‘winning’ for a medal or the applause or a photograph; but for that pure exhilaration of that moment you know you’ve won. That was my driving force.
After college, life became different. Getting a job and growing my business became my top priority. Therefore I bid farewell to sports at 21. By then I had excelled in swimming, basketball, badminton, football, karate, athletics and more. It’s not that I didn't want to play, but that there was hardly any opportunities.
In late 2016, I heard CC&FC had started Woman’s Rugby. I jumped at the opportunity. I was 25, overweight and unfit. The training was so hard I would tear up during practice. With Inia and Rohit as encouraging coaches, I slowly found the natural rhythm for the sport.
In 2017, having represented CC&FC several times, I decided to try for the Bengal Team. Sourojit, a part of the Indian team, prepared us with lethal sessions. It comprised of intense cardio with technical drills. The encouragement of team manager Muktar Sir every session helped us cope with the training. A month of rigorous try-outs led to the selection of 12 girls. I was thrilled to be a part of the Bengal Woman's 7 Rugby Team.
Our team comprised of girls who came from remote villages of Siliguri, to girls who were from the tribal Adivivasi community to people like me--confluence of Colonial style schooling. Our team spoke 6 different languages. We were different, and yet we were similar. The common factor between us was our thirst to win.
We left for Bhubuneshwar on 27th January, 2017. We traveled by the early morning local train while sharing chana chur and playing antakshari. We stayed in a stadium. I was surprised at the incredible infrastructure Orissa has. During dinner, we interacted with the players from the other states, and enriched ourselves through those conversations.
That night, before the big tournament, I watched ‘Creed’--a part of the Rocky Saga. The film touched a cord with me. Apollo, Creed’s son, overcome personal battles to become a champion. I could relate to Adonis Johnson. Coming from a family of sports royalty can be humbling, but also constricting, as it was challenging to chart out my own path. But that night, I broke free. I realized I had started creating my own trajectory. Rugby seemed to be my calling. My butterfly stroke shoulders, coupled with my running speed along with my red cards in football, made me a ruby warrior.
Next morning , over a breakfast we motivated each other, braided each others’ hair, and headed to the field. I had ACDC playing on my headphones then I tuned into a speech by Rocky. It said;
I was ready. I felt we could take on the world.
Eight teams participated; Maharashtra, Kerala, Delhi, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Bengal. Some games were easy but some were nothing short of a battle. Our Bengal tigresses, dressed in black with yellow stripes, were fierce. Our coach Roshan gave us helpful strategic advice throughout. We defeated all the other teams and made it to the finals with Orissa.
We lost to Orissa but it was a glorious match. Our captain Chanda could dodge a bullet, Laxmi and Shoma were full of fire even after a serious injury. Then there were champs like, Poonam, Chanda, Sanju, Mala, and Suchorita.
We all celebrated. It was was warm hugging and congratulating each other. There was such a nice bond between us. It felt so real; the emotions were so genuine.
Why do we, women, deny ourselves sports? Why are we so apologetic for what we enjoy?
Rough, tough, athletic, powerful, strong - why are these only positive attributes for men? When we describe a woman with these words they suddenly take on such negative connotations! Submissive, delicate, gentle, soft seem to be the ideal attributes for women. We are constantly trying to live up to society’s expectations of us without truly enjoying who we really are.
Women's rugby has started becoming popular. The Indian team just came runners up to the Asia Cup. That's a huge achievement because we have less than half the infrastructures our opponents do.
The next time you’re getting a cooking set for your daughter and a football for your son, stop and take a moment to think. Are you stereotyping her without even giving her a chance? Don’t perpetuate the stereotypes; don't take away the opportunities for your little girl. We are often dictating terms for others, expecting them to live their lives according to our terms instead of their own, to fit into the watertight compartments we've created. This change will happen, however bringing it about will be the hardest battle to fight--one fought not on the field but off it.
My advice to the woman of today is one borrowed from Bukowski:
'Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?'