I was looking for a quick update on the opening match of the Women’s World Cup between India and Pakistan on social media and was delighted to see India win by 107 runs. It was sweet revenge perhaps after the loss against Pakistan in the T20 where they beat us by 10 wickets. I got curious about the players and as I was typing the meta tag “women cricket players”, a viral video of Bismah Maroof caught my attention where she was seen carrying her infant daughter Fatima, minutes before the match. I was agape imagining her terrific grit and dedication towards the country, the game and the family. As is the way with search engines and AI-led algorithms, this search led to another endearing video showing up where women from the Indian side were seen cajoling little Fatima. Smriti Mandana on her insta handle posted a note, “ Bismah setting an example for sports women across the globe. Lots of love to baby Fatima from India and I hope she picks the bat like you because lefties are special.” I was brought up by a mother who was a working woman. She has been simple, unassuming, poignant, and unbiased, juggling between several roles so effortlessly; yet breaking the bias way back then like so many today #breakthebias.
This episode reminded me of my grand aunt and how back in the days she played basketball when sports were not meant for girls. Many princesses such as Rajyashree Kumari of Bikaner, who defied the patriarchal edifices of royalty, religious precepts and several biases played as role models by winning the Arjuna Award at the age of 16. Shubha Khote, who is well recognised for her acting, also excelled in sports at a time when girls seldom ventured into sports. She was the national champion in swimming and cycling in the women category for three consecutive years between 1952-1955.
My curiosity had peaked by now and I wanted to know more about these phenomenal women who broke so many shackles of cultural biases, triumphing vulnerabilities, women who made their dreams a reality. My one search for women in cricket led me automatically to so much more information out there; for instance #chakdaXpress a biopic based on Jhulan Goswami popped up and the solidarity extended by all was extremely endearing to read. A fan even remarked, ‘If cricket is a religion, why are men the only Gods?’ Movies like Million Dollar Baby, Mary Kom, Whip it, Bend it like Beckham, Chakde India, and Dangal shed incredible light on the trials and tribulations a woman goes through just to prove her mettle against the sexist societal norms.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity.” – Amelia Earhart
Remarkably true in the case of ‘The Mermaid’ as she is popularly called, Bhakti Sharma the youngest and first Asian woman to swim in the frigid water of Antarctica. It was her mother, Leela, a national champion herself, who coached her and stood up against societal dogmas. Arunima Sinha, a national Volleyball player, was pushed from a running train when she protested against a chain-snatching incident resulting in an amputated leg. She went on to become the first woman to summit Mount Everest! Deepa Malik,the first woman to win a silver at the Summer Paralympic in 2016 and a gold in Javelin at the Para Athletic Grand Prix held in Dubai in 2018, left me in awe when she remarked, “All I did was focus on my abilities beyond disabilities, picked up what I was left with and celebrated life. The darkest night brought the best sunrise of my life. I got reborn on my ‘wheelchair’ stronger and brighter in my new body which gave me a purpose and direction in life”. These women made impossible seem possible with their grit and tenacity. As I kept reading all the auto-triggered search leads on these outstanding women, I marvelled at their #trulylimitless resilience.
A quote by Shirley Chisholm came to mind as I pondered the overpowering information I had just been offered by the web: “Tremendous amounts of talent is being lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”