A Different Playing Field – Always
Why is this happening? Why isn’t India being able to produce a Wilma Rudolf or Florence Griffith – Joyner and Allyson Felix? Ask yourself this and you will find the answer soon enough: it’s because barring a handful, most Indian families do not really encourage their daughters to take up sports as a career. And even if the girls do so they rarely find support from family and sponsors alike.
These are just a few questions that Diana has in mind about why India is not having as many women in sports as one might expect from one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.
This reminds me of school when we were supposed to play not only separately from boys but also completely different games altogether, the so called girlish games. For many of my schoolmates it was the same at home or even worse. They were supposed to help their mom’s in the kitchen or make tea for the visitors so that they grow up to be the Perfect Indian Girl a guy would be happy to marry. He would later torture her or burn her alive for dowry/ not bearing him sons and so on and so forth, is a different case altogether.
From the age of 7 – 8 years I only remember the girls of the group I used to play with vanishing suddenly year after year, some at the onset of puberty, some when they started getting their periods and some whose parents thought that even before that they are GIRLS who need to be groomed to take all the beating from a husband with a smile. But what I remember about my parents is my mom wanting me to learn shooting and dad teaching me to make paper planes and fly them. On a holiday our family will be out in the garden playing all sorts of games and sports ranging from the traditional marbles to cricket.
I never got interested in sports up to the level to take it up as a career but still physical activities attract me and my parents give me a go ahead whenever I tell them about my wish to learn horse riding or flying planes. Infact when I told them that I wish to own a pistol my dad told me the procedure to acquire a license rather than putting me down.
Coming from such an environment I am not sure how many times my parents had to listen to gossip from neighbors about my un-girly activities or boy-like interests. But I know for sure that many of my friends were even beaten up for wanting to fly a kite with their brothers rather than making chapattis for the whole family at the age of 12.
In many ways, I consider myself lucky. Having something and not wanting it is any day better than wanting something and not having it. I was having the freedom but not inclined to take them up at a professional level and those who might have were not allowed. But with changing times I am seeing the scenario change and some parents these days are more open to their daughters taking up sports as a career. This has given me hope that I would see more Mary Koms, P.T. Ushas, Malleswaris and Saina Nehwals in the future. But then, some parents REALLY want to encourage their girls to take up sports as a profession, but lack the funding to send them to high-profile events at the national and international level. What we require is funding for different sports so that ambitious and talented young girls can be trained from the grassroots level itself.