When wrestler Babita Phogat is not winning laurels for the nation on the international front, she's smashing the patriarchy and taboos about women wrestlers in India. After achieving worldwide fame from the Bollywood blockbuster Dangal based on her life, the fire in her to strive harder and achieve her goals has only increased.
Discrimination stunts growth
Under the watchful eye of her father-cum-coach, Mahavir Singh Phogat, Bhiwani born Babita challenged several societal expectations to carve a place for herself in the male- dominated sport. “In our state, taking up wrestling was very difficult. When I started playing the sport, I realised that nobody else was doing it. In Haryana, most women still live in a ghunghat and are often not allowed to venture outside their homes. So even thinking of pursuing wrestling was a big deal,” she was quoted in Josh Talks.
According to the iron lady, her family faced more hardships than she did. “They had to listen to the taunts from people in our village. But that did not stop me from entering the field. Not many have a father like mine.While I was growing up, my father ensured I was never treated any differently from boys.”
All accomplishments start with a dream
Perseverance and practice bore fruit. She currently is India’s top wrestler in the 53- 55kg category. Her silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games shot her instantly to limelight. Moreover, she became the only fourth female wrestler in the country to qualify for Olympics.
Symbol of womanhood
After relentless amount of struggle and a film to prove it, life has certainly changed for the ‘Dangal girl’. “All the kids across India say that they want to grow up and become Geeta and Babita and wake up at 5 am. Some of them have even gone to the akhadas and are giving wrestling a shot. Sex ratio is also improving. We hope that people’s mindset changes for the better.”
Her message is strong and clear. “Fear is something that will always be within us. But if we are confident, nothing is impossible. Women need to remember that.”