Updated: Dec 13, 2018
Mr Sahu or Sahu ji as we call him with respect, has been working with my Mother’s NGO for more than 3 decades. A silent worker, he keeps all records in order and works with the various Government Departments. Sahu ji has a loving wife and two children, Natasha (15) and her elder brother. My mother intermittingly spoke about how good Natasha is and that she is making Sahu ji very proud. I would simply nod and didn’t ask many questions. My mother usually has great things to say about everyone she meets.
One day during my visit to Bhopal, Sahu ji and I generally started to chit-chat. I asked about his daughter and he said “yes she is a State Karate Champion”. I replied “Really?” with amazement. Karate, a girl from Bhopal, these two words didn’t connect. I asked him again and he started to share more details that Natasha is in a Government funded hostel in Jabalpur, another small town not too far from Bhopal. I was even more surprised, she was just 15 and is now living on her own. A girl from Bhopal, a Karate champ and living independently in a separate town with Govt. sponsorship, all the pieces didn’t add up. Sahu ji got all my attention.
Sahu ji narrated that when Natasha was much younger she used to learn Karate in school. She was the only girl among a bunch of boys learning karate. But with lack of interest from students, the Karate classes stopped. Natasha was heart-broken. Her father, Sahu ji said that he will arrange for private lessons for Natasha, to which she readily agreed. It turned out that Natasha’s talent did not remain hidden for too long. She started to win every match. The local Government authority and the Sports Authority of India started to recognize her talent.
The next day Sahu ji showed me the various medals that she has won. They ranged from community and citywide competitions to State championship. Among the 15 pus medals, she received accolades from various politicians and Government officials. While Natasha was being recognized publically, her relatives were not very happy. They often told Sahu ji “you should ask her to stop all this. What if she gets hurt in her face, who will marry her?”. “It is not decent for a girl in our community to play sports and that too karate”. “No one will marry her”. “Her dress sense is not good. She wears pants all the time”. Sahu ji mentioned to me that in his community women never play sports so these comments were fair to ask. Sahu ji’s wife always wears a saree and has her head covered. Karate was not something girls learn in his community. But since Natasha was keen, Sahu ji announced that his daughter likes it and he sees no harm.
When I asked Natasha about her love for Karate, she said she always liked the sport. She added that every girl should learn karate for self-defense. Natasha is now the State representative for Khelo India Khelo (Play India Play), which is a national competition for Karate. She is very thankful to her dad to let her pursue her interest. She plans to join the Navy in the coming years so that she can support her family. Karate is in her blood and hopes to represent India in the Olympics one-day. Her relatives have turned around and now say “Beti ho to Sahu ji Jaisi“.
If you have a daughter, she should be like Sahu ji’s daughter. “