A Race Against The Tide

Imagine being billed as one of the most promising talents as early as at the age of 4, only to have met with an unbidden tragedy on the road a year later, which not only took away her father but also confined her physically for the rest of her life.

Recently turned 18, Sia Kashyap from Mangaldoi, Assam, has always wished for a career in dancing, believing that by way of dance she can express her true self. Back then, it was Sanjib Mallik, a dance teacher, who spotted the potential in Sia and motivated her to follow her dreams. Thereafter, she pursued dancing with all her heart and soul while depending on Youtube channels for the moves.

Sia’s mother, her lone parent who works around the clock to make a living for the two, said: “I am so proud of my daughter, with the way she has turned the tide ever since the accident. She can do whatever she feels like with her career, I am always there to support her through thick and thin. She is my lone reason to be alive.”

Since onset, Sia has been a lyrical dancer. With time she is trying to excel the waacking form too.

Finally, when we asked about her dream, she replied with a smile: “I want to inspire people through my dance. In life, we always face unforeseeable hurdles but the way we overcome such situations is what makes the person we are today. With all the struggle that my mother and I had to go through over the years, I am trying my best to bring back the smile back on my mom’s face.”

The Curious Case of Darshana

“What is missing in me?” 23-year-old Darshana Kashyap, who has been previously appreciated by the likes of Bollywood greats Shankar Mahadevan, Harshdeep Kaur, mulls over the question posed to her during a recent chit-chat. It came across as a curious proposition to put to a girl who is so full of beans and more importantly has an extremely melodious voice.

Darshana has been singing since she was 5, much to the influence of her mother who herself wanted to be a singer but destiny held other plans. During the initial years, she performed choruses at various gatherings apart from pulling off famous covers.

However, as she approached the final years of school and eventually higher school, music composing and singing took the backseat while academies led the wheels of her life. The notion of her family that she has a better future in academies remained the obstinate footnote for her career back then.

It was in the second year of college (Delhi University) when Darshana decided to revive her music interest and this time with a promise to never bag down whatsoever. But again, it took just a few months for her to stumble upon tuberculosis and pleural effusion, only to leave her in tears and slimming hopes of living her dream. BUT, she didn’t give up!

She went through a successful operation, recuperated and thereafter, shifted back to her hometown. It took her sometime to again make a comeback but eventually did. In 2019, she set things moving with gigs where she was the centre of all applauds (what a comeback, eh!).

What’s next? She is all geared up to release her debut album in the next few months. Also, going ahead, she is planning to fan out Assamese folk music to all corners of the country.

Darshana is habitually a vocal young woman who makes her stand against social issues. She is also preparing to tell stories in order to address the burning issues of the community at large, something which, she believes, people need to be made aware of.

As She Hit The Mountains

One definition of genius is when a person decides to make a move that completely defies the logic of conventional wisdom, but yes, it turns out to work well. Ain’t that what following your passion is called, not bothering about social taboos?

It isn’t a trade secret that every alternate being is more into traveling now. However, Anangsha’s peculiar journey started back in the summer of ‘16 when she felt the desperate need to find a way out of her humdrum existence. She wanted to explore and learn more about cultures, expose herself to new places, new people, and develop a wider view of the world.

But nothing comes off in a snip! With parents not aligned with her new idea, Anangsha had to look for a source of income. After surfing through the market, she finally managed to grab one. Income? 1500 rupees only! It seemed difficult to fund a trip for that amount but Anangsha learned the art of ‘Budget Traveling’.

From her colossal travel vlog, she reflects on her trip to Spiti Valley in 2017 as one of her most special. Without comprising on any priorities, she managed to round up 21 days at the minimal expense of just 4200 grand. Hitch-hiking, spending the nights with local families, nipping traditional food, exploring remote villages (like KA), Spiti gave her more than just mere memories. Well, there has been no looking back since then with the national tennis player’s travel aspirations growing tenfold every passing year.

Eventually, Anangsha, who is also a trained artist and a photographer by passion, has become a popular face in the travel industry and beyond, courtesy of her mesmerizing sagas and her ability to create appealing content. Apart from collaborating with the renowned global travel community ‘Tripoto’, she has been a regular feature in various media publications.

It’s important to have a ‘purpose’ when you travel anywhere. You either go to a place to learn (explore) or refresh yourself. You don’t travel to pile up selfies. That’s Anangsha!

When asked about the effect that this coronavirus pandemic has had on her travel plans, Anangsha said: “I miss traveling a lot. But it’s fine. Nature needs time to heal itself. They need a break from people. Once all of these are over, I will see nature in a refreshed form. Meanwhile, I am giving more time to myself and my profession which is content creation and social media marketing (surprise!). After all, I also have to earn in order to keep ticking off items from my bucket list.”

A Star is Born

Often in life, a person’s entire career trajectory can change by one swing of wind in favor of you. It was the year 2015 when a certain ‘Marijuana’ song took the people at large by storm and transfigured Nihal Basumatary’s life, who was the lead guitarist, in a nutshell.

Having worked with the band ‘Backdoor Theory’ for over 3 years during his college days, Nihal, who is a massive fan of John Mayer, Amit Trivedi and Zubeen Garg, has been ramming his own future for one year now. Last November, Nihal collaborated for the first time with a fellow artist to release a cover song ‘Shaam’ which was highly appreciated by his digital audience. With such motivating response, he continued airing more covers.

Nihal is blessed to be part of a very supportive (and music-oriented, of course) family. Back when he was in school, it was his uncle who peeled him out to learn guitar along with his cousin, George Hazowary. After mastering the art of playing with the strings, Nihal trained to become a vocalist. That being fruitful and having gained some considerable years of experience, he is now engrossing all the attention to composing his own songs.

The happy-go-lucky dilettante music producer believes the Assamese music industry has been encouraging for newcomers lately with the audience willing to turn their ears on for newbies with potential.

His cousin, George, who is a banker by day and a musician by night, is now a trained pianist and keyboardist and often collaborates with Nihal to mold amusing notes.

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Payal Prajapat – the girl who is breaking stereotypes!

Meet Payal Prajapat—the 12-year-old girl who is blazing a trail and going toe to toe with the boys on the football pitch.

Payal is one of the trainees at a Zinc Football School in Dariba Epicentre and the only girl in the team. It speaks volumes about her grit and determination that despite having to practice with the boys, she is a fierce competitor who is always giving her opponents a hard time on the field.

A powerhouse of footballing talent, Payal, who is a student of Class 7 at the Government Upper Primary School in Sindesar Khurd, is already impressing coaches and observers with her skills. Ask her how it feels to be the only girl in the team and she giggles and attributes it to luck!

In 2017, Hindustan Zinc’s decision to open a football school in her neighbourhood came as a godsend to Payal who saw it as an opportunity to indulge in her favourite sport. She realized that enlisting a few other girls would make it easier for her to convince her parents to allow her to play. She even managed to bring around 3-4 friends but they eventually stopped coming owing to a variety of reasons – from helping their mothers in the kitchen, to assisting their fathers in the fields. Given the predominance of traditional values in this part of Rajasthan, many parents also felt that football was not suitable for girls and discouraged their daughters from playing.

But none of these prevented Payal from pursuing her passion and today she is counted among the best—if not the best—player on the Sindesar Khurd football team. Even as her friends are engaged in household chores, Payal is busy giving shape to her dreams.

Jamuna Lal, Payal’s PT teacher at school who has been tracking Payal’s development, says: “Payal is always enthusiastic about going to the ground, even in this scorching heat. The Zinc Football initiative has opened a whole new world for her and I am certain she will bring glory to everyone.”

Payal’s father, Puranmal Prajapat, who is a driver in HZL, is pleased about his daughter breaking social stereotypes and is a pillar of support for her dreams. “Payal always attends school till 4 pm, and then runs to the playground, and at around 7 in the evening she returns home smiling with tales of the game from the ground,” he gleefully quips.

The Story of a Fighter against all Odds

A primary school teacher, hockey player, a marriage gone wrong, a crestfallen mother and now an AIFF D-Licensed football coach with Zinc Football, 28-year-old Sumitra Meena has lived all the ups and downs of a lifetime in just a span of few years.

As with many girls in the rural areas, Sumitra got married as early as at 17, only to find after a couple of months that her husband is an alcoholic addict. She let go of her studies to look for a job as her husband’s earnings were mostly splurged on liquor. After some struggle, she got an opportunity to join a private kindergarten as a teacher.

Three years on, Sumitra was blessed with a baby boy. However, fate dealt her the cruellest of hands, when one day out of the blue, her son who had just turned 7 fell ill. It appeared to be viral fever, but he never recovered. Wiping her tears, she said that she got separated from her husband that year itself.

Sumitra realised she needs to look for a better job to support her mother who was still working as a maid. Zawar is well-known for its football craze and Sumitra being a native of the region was no different. During her childhood, she along with her sister was among the hundreds who would walk a few kilometres hand-in-hand to watch the celebrated Mohan Kumar Mangalam Tournament held every year at Zawar Stadium.

This time she wanted to follow her dream of becoming a football coach, which would also help her stay connected with children. She applied for the AIFF D-License Coaching Course in 2018 and displaying immense strength of character, passed the examination. Sumitra is now a football coach in Zinc Football Schools. While her mother now cooks only at home, Sumitra is mostly engaged with footballers under the age of 14 years at Pratahpura and Chanawada Zinc Football Schools in the Zawar Epicentre. She has recently registered for her incomplete Bachelors Degree and now, she is focussed on enjoying the bright side of life. “Field jane ka time ho gaya hain. Bacche aate hi honge. Mein chalti hoon”, she smiled and took off.

Tamil Nadu’s J. Coleshiya takes a leap of faith

Champions shape their destiny by looking squarely in the faces of adversaries and adversity. Tamil Nadu’s J. Coleshiya might be just 15-years-old, but she has tackled both the challenges with a great panache and determination.

Her gold in the girls triple jump event in which she recorded a distance of 12.29 metres is a testimony of her talent and determination to excel in the face of surmounting odds. The student of St. Theresa’s Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Chennai lost her father at a very young age. It fell upon her mother, a flower picker by profession, who also works in a beedi factory to support her three children and nurture Coleshiya’s dreams of making it big in athletics.  

Coleshiya showed early promise when she won gold in the u-14 long jump event for girls at the 32nd Junior National Championship in Coimbatore in 2016. Since then she has switched to triple jump, but her golden streak remains undiminished. The gold medal in the triple jump event in the Khelo India School Games is a vindication of a mother’s faith in her daughter. “I have been able to pursue by career only because of the support of mother. She had to make a lot of sacrifices. I am very happy to gift my mother another gold medal,” said Coleshiya.

The Tamil Nadu triple jumper won a gold medal in the SGFI National Games last year. Her coach, M. Dev Shekhar, is full of praise for the Khelo India programme, which is tended to help talented athletes just like Coleshiya. “I am thankful to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs for laying the foundation of Khelo India. It will go a long way in helping athletes like Coleshiya. It will motivate them to work even harder and reach their true potential,” said Dev Shekhar.

Pune girl makes her father proud with Gold medal

Often there is so much focus on the fastest athlete in the men’s or boy’s sections, that the women’s or girls’ section gets overshadowed. While Delhi’s Nisar Ahmad was winning the boys 100m in 10.76s, there was also Avantika Narale of Pune grabbing the honours in Girls’ section.

Avantika from Lonkar High School, Pune, bagged gold at the first Khelo India School Games by completing the run in just 12.36 seconds. Avantika spoke highly of her coach and her supportive family and dedicated the medal to them.

A few years ago Avantika was very often seen making quick sprints in her school, and to her credit, she was always considered the fastest among her friends. But kabaddi was her first love before coming to athletics.

After seeing her speed in kabaddi, her physical training teacher, Shivaji Mehta, spotted her potential and urged her register herself in athletics. By the time she reached class 8th, athletics became her top priority. After she shifted to train under coach Sanjay Patankar, there was a marked upturn in her performance. Her academic career, however, took the back seat.

The Pune girl, who wants to visit Disneyland in future, claimed third position in 100m (12.47 seconds) in the 63rd National School Games Athletics Championship held in Bhopal last year. After dealing with mixed reactions for her third place finish, Avantika was determined to upgrade her game. Winning the gold medal in the Khelo India School Games gave her the satisfaction of achieving the goal, making her father proud. Avantika’s ultimate aim is to win an Olympic gold.   

For Santosh Narale, her daughter’s performance in the KISG was a moment to cherish. “I am proud of my daughter. She is the best,” he said. He further added that he was expecting gold because she had worked very hard before these games. Talking about his financial problems, Santosh said that he feels upset at times because they cannot afford some of the things that Avantika craves for. But on the lighter note, he said that he will treat Avantika to chicken for her gold medal-winning performance at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Three Cheers for Ladu – the wonderkid from Dariba

How often do we see a father’s death turning out to be a motivational factor for a young kid! Well, 14-year-old Ladu Lal Jatiya from Naya Dariba has promised himself ever since to live his father’s dream of becoming a footballer. Lalu’s father, who worked as a labourer in Hindustan Zinc, failed to survive a sudden heart attack a year back.

It took Ladu and his mother (Tipu Bai) several months to begin the process of resetting their lives – they had lost not only a loving husband/father, but also the sole bread-winner of the family. Tipu Bai had no option left except to turn to their farm fields to support Ladu and his three younger sisters.

When Ladu’s father was alive, he would often take Ladu to their neighbour’s home to watch a football match. More than the game, young Ladu was always amazed to see people in that room, passionately and loudly cheering for their teams. Once his father passed away, football became Ladu’s way of remembering his father.

Ladu now wakes up every morning and rides the 6 km from his home on his bicycle to reach the Zinc Football Community Coaching Centre in Dariba. A regular in his training sessions, football is the new constant in Ladu’s life. And Ladu’s coach is very certain that Ladu’s hard work and dedication will certainly one day bring loud cheers for Ladu.

The Last One … Gone too!

With Yuvi’s goodbye, I realise that I won’t be able to see any of my childhood heroes donning an Indian jersey ever. The classic 2003 World Cup squad is finally done and dusted. Yuvi was always a special part of that generation.

Some innings made fans jump up in the air, while some gave them hope that we are ready to fight all greats.

Regardless of Yuvi’s current form, shape or speed, a child from ’90s like me will always remember him as someone who was ready to dive headlong on the field, whose flick down the leg side landed in the thick of crowd, who helped Dada create that memorable shirtless moment at Lord’s, and most importantly, as a player who gave it all for his team.

Newday chumps may say else, but I’ve always considered him the biggest reason behind India winning the World Cup after 28 years. Oh what a tournament he had! Be it him kneeling down all pumped to celebrate our Q/F victory against mighty Aussies, or coughing blood on the field on numerous occasions, he is the hero India didn’t deserve.

I prayed to God that whatever happens, even if I die afterwards, let India win the World Cup“, words that speak scant of his big heart.

Helmet on head, heart on crest, never a backward step – my hero finally bids adieu with a thumping chest.

Miss you more than 666666 times.