Woman power saves India blushes at greatest show on earth
New Delhi, August 20 : They hail from four different corners of the country and have contrasting tales of struggle to tell but P V Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and Lalita Babar today stand united as the confident new face of woman power in Indian sports which saved a floundering Olympic campaign.
Not all of them got medals with Sindhu’s badminton silver and Sakshi’s wrestling bronze being the two outstanding moments. But they were equals when it came to effort and perseverance in what is called the greatest show on earth.
The quartet is a study in contrast, not just for where they come from but also for how they have gone about chasing their dreams.
Sindhu, who is shining the brightest right now with a silver that was won after pushing the reigning world No.1 Carolina Marin of Spain to the wall, comes from the southern corner of the country.
Daughter of an Arjuna awardee volleyball player P V Ramana, she did not need outside inspiration to warm up to sports. But the 21-year-old chose to pursue an individual craft in badminton after watching Pullela Gopichand become the All England champion in 2001.
She would go on to become Gopichand’s ‘protege’, encouraged by a sporting family which had the wherewithal to give wings to her dreams.
Nurtured and supported well, Sindhu has today outshone a certain Saina Nehwal, again a woman, who redefined sporting excellence in India with her feats.
At the other end of the spectrum is Sakshi, a lively 23-year-old hailing from Haryana up north. She comes from a state where female foeticide remains a concern besides the social boundaries set for women.
Perhaps her tremendous will to fight, even after trailing in all the three bouts leading up to that bronze in Rio, came from the spirit which an average woman has to dig from to survive in the badlands of northern India where the fairer sex is yet to get a fair deal.
The Rohtak village, which cannot stop celebrating her bronze right now, had once questioned and even criticised her parents for letting their daughter pick sport as a career.
But to the credit of her bus conductor father and an ‘anganwadi’ supervisor mother, Sakshi wasn’t short of support from where it mattered.
She wasn’t among the medal contenders who were hyped before the Games and had seen one of her more fancied teammates — Vinesh Phogat — stretchered off the mat with a grievous knee injury minutes before her bouts.
But Sakshi gave a demonstration of what it means to have nerves of steel in a sport which had not seen an Indian woman on the Olympic podium before her.
In complete contrast is the tale of Dipa Karmakar — a shy, unassuming and focussed-to-the-point-of-being-obsessive gymnast from the small state of Tripura tucked away in the north east of the country.