Hansika*, a 20-year-old athlete, looks at me warily, expecting an explanation for having stopped her from calling her coach.
It is Friday morning. We are in a small playground in Rohtak, Haryana, and Hansika is sprawled across a rubber sheet on the ground – all five feet six inches of her - her fingers lightly playing with the sand spilling over at its borders. “Whatever you want to say, I’ll call the coach to talk to you about it or you can talk to my father. He’ll come here in some time to pick me up,” she says.
Going in, I thought this would be a heart-to-heart between two young women where we would talk about the joys of playing sport, the escape it provides from her chores at home, and the perils – or challenges – of being a woman in Indian sport.
“I cannot talk to you about anything unless my coach or my father or my brother knows,” Hansika repeats, giving me a reality check.
I give up, but not without responding with a little food for thought: “Tell me Hansika, why do we always need some man in our life to tell us when to talk about our lives?”
I finally see a smile which, shortly after, turns into a smirk. “Mard toh hona chahiye. [Men should be there]. Why I’m in this sport is because of my father allowing me out of the house wearing shorts. Why I’m at nationals is because of my coach, another man. You won’t like what I say, and you won’t get anything from me, but the reality is, sports is a masculine thing. Women are changing it, but only with the help of other men. So what use are our voices anyway?” she counters.
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About the Writer
Divya Karthikeyan is an independent journalist based in Chennai. She writes on politics, development and culture in South India. @divya_krthk