In rural India, girls are usually confined to household work, limited often to chores in the kitchen.

I am Suman, from a small village in Bihar where very few girls make it to schools, and most just remain at home or work in fields. Having seen that as a normal around me, I felt quite lucky to be allowed to pursue studies by the day and work in the field by the evening.

We used to carry heavy sacks of wheat on our backs and walk miles. Being physically strong, I hardly found lifting heavy weights difficult. But I was too ignorant to see this as a sporting gift.

It wasn’t until I once visited my relatives in a city, along with my family, that I learnt “WEIGHT LIFTING” was indeed a competitive sport. Though nervous initially, I wanted to give it a shot. And a shot I gave, with the singular aim of breaking the man-woman stereotype and paving the way for other girls like me.

I decided I would discuss this with my father, though I knew explaining him would not be easy. But I had to fight for my dreams. I had made up my mind and was ready to test the rules. We did discuss when back in the village, and the outcome was not unexpected. My father said: “Girls don’t wear short clothes and do men’s work. This is a boys’ sport. You are a girl. You will bring us embarrassment if you take that path!”

I was in tears and wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. Instead, I started working even harder. I exercised more and lifted more weight. This went on for about a year. And then, the unexpected happened. My father agreed, having seen my diligence, single-minded devotion, and perseverance.

But he had a word of caution for me. “NO WORK IS BIG OR SMALL IF YOU ARE WILLING TO GO AN EXTRA MILE FOR IT. THIS SOCIETY HAS A GENDER BIAS. IT WILL NEITHER LET YOU GROW NOR LIVE,” he said.

I went to Bihar Sports Academy, and took my training for junior-level weightlifting, and gave it my best.

I won the national-level Junior Championship, and followed it up with the national-level senior championship. I have also been selected to represent the country in Asian games. I hope to bring laurels to the country and become its proud daughter! My parents support me now and always push me to do my best. I have also started a training centre in my village for aid girls willing to pursue their dreams.

On this ‘SPORTS DAY’, I advise every sportsperson to keep their chin up. Always keep the spirit of sportsmanship alive in you, and never give up!

Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to a person living or otherwise may be purely coincidental

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