Sriram Balasubramanian is a Journalist, voracious reader, avid Blogger, social enthusiast and a believer in excellence not mediocrity. With an inherent passion towards journalism and writing, he believes in playing the "Straight Drive" all the time. Besides this, he has a MS in Engineering Management and has played Chess for Singapore.
The Olympics is the most watched multi sporting event in the world. Being the center stage for so many sports, it is the summit that everyone wants to reach at some point of time. However, what surprises me is that every four years ever since its inception, the Olympics throws up fascinating stories that reflect the true spirit of the games. This time around, our Olympic story is right at our doorstep.
In my view, the most significant take away from the Olympics has been the rise of the Indian women in the field of sports. In particular, the rise of Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom at the Olympics stage has been a remarkable feat. Behind the stories of both these women, lies a story of grit, determination and discipline that very few in the country can boast of. It also reflects the struggles they would have encountered fighting despite the system and society at large.
In a country like India, taking sport as a profession is in itself a rarity. The professional stereotypes intrinsic to our society do not consider sport as a viable mode of employment. The monetary risks involved in any sport is so huge that most people eventually end up settling for an engineering degree and working in a 5 days a week job. The obsession with a singular sport such as cricket makes the going much harder for athletes of other sports since the money is headed only in one direction all the time. Now, being women sportsmen, the challenges are multifold. It makes the task a million times harder. The pathetic state of female feticide in the country tells us how much women are still unwanted in large parts of India. Even now in some areas of rural India, women are mere objects for dowries and are bargained shamelessly as mere tradeable commodities. In a country which still adopts such practices without understanding their faith properly, its not a surprise that it is more challenging for a female sportsperson to succeed than the male counterparts. Discrimination at such a mundane level makes it an extremely challenging task for female athletes to take up the profession, leave alone progress in it. The foundation stone for such sporting successes lays in the support system that athletes get, i.e the family and parental support.
Parents and the families of sportsman need to live the dream of their children, that is the only way they can assist the children in their quest for success. In both the cases of Saina and Mary Kom, family support was pivotal to their success. Saina, being a girl wonder, was given complete support from her parents to pursue what she had wanted. The early morning 25 km drives for the badminton sessions were tough then, now it all seems so worth it. Her mother, she admits, has helped her extensively ever since she started travelling and used to accompany her to major tournaments so as to ensure that the girl got the entire support one needed. In the case of Mary Kom, it was her husband who has been the pillar of strength in helping her pursue her dreams. He takes care of the children, the house and is also a supporting partner for the 5 time world champion. In both these cases, the support system provided by the family has been crucial for their successes in their respective fields. In the glitz of the 24x7 media, only the stars stand out. Often forgotten are their respective families who have been the backbone of the star's successes. Another unique distinction between both of them is the middle class upbringing that has made them grounded all this while.
Both Saina and Mary Kom have come from relatively humble backgrounds, not affected by the distractions that engulf wealthy people in urban India. The humility of the middle class shines through so effortlessly. Having come from humble backgrounds, they seem to have understood what struggle and grit is (especially Mary Kom). Any middleclass women would attest to the struggles of the daily lives and the need for grit to survive daily life, leave alone conquering it. In fact, there is a popular saying that the Indian householder controls the economy since she determines the purchasing parity of an entire family, such is her responsibility. Simplistic upbringing has instilled a sense of determination within these two athletes that is rare to see in many athletes across the country.
These two champions might have a significant age difference but both of them have laid the red carpet for all youngsters across the country to emulate them. The journey of these two Olympians has shown a path for aspiring sports women across the country and provided inspiration for many. More than their achievements, it's the process and obstacles that they have overcome that stand out. True to the theme of the Olympics, their stories are as valuable as their glory itself. To sum it up, in a country which still treats girls as dowry packages in some areas, they have smashed and literally given a punch on the face of people who look down upon female sportsmen.
Girls don't bring dowries, they bring medals; that would be the mantra post the Olympic victories of Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom.
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