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Monday, January 9, 2017

Inspiration-Neetu Sarkar’s Journey From Being a Child Bride to an International Wrestler.


Neetu Sarkar wakes up every morning at 3 am to take a one-and-a-half-hour-long bus journey from her village of Bhiwani to Rohtak in Haryana. On reaching the city, this wrestler takes part in a strenuous training programme. At 9 am, when the training is over, she takes the bus back home. Once back, she washes clothes and does some cooking and cleaning. Again, she leaves for Rohtak in the afternoon, finishes her training, and returns home at 9 pm.This schedule sounds hard for a regular person. But Neetu is not ordinary.
In fact, unimaginable struggles have got her to this point in life.
“It gets difficult on some days. But I’m very focussed on my goal. I’ve come a long way and I don’t want to give up now,” she says.Life was cruel to Neetu as a child. She was married at the age of 13 to a mentally challenged man, 30 years her senior.Child marriage has been outlawed in India since 1929.Though the ill-treatment by her in-laws angered Neetu’s parents, it didn’t prevent them from marrying her off a second time. However, this time, the man who married her was a kind person. He loved and supported her.She gave birth to twin boys at the age of 14.

But the family had very little money. Neetu’s husband was unemployed. Her mother-in-law’s pension could only cover the bare minimum groceries and the children’s school fees once they started growing up.“I used to be fascinated with wrestling even when I was a child. When the 2010 Commonwealth Games were taking place in India, I was watching wrestling on TV and suddenly it struck me that I should take this up as a career,” says Neetu.Fuelled by the desire to escape poverty, Neetu decided to start training at the male-dominated akhara (wrestling pit). But she was banned from entering the place.

At the time, she weighed over 80 kg. In order to lose weight and become fit, she started waking up at 3 am and going for a run.She would finish her run and come back home before the others in the village woke up.Neetu’s dreams took shape in 2011 when she met coach Ziley Sing.“He told me if Mary Kom could win a medal after motherhood, so could I. And that gave me a lot of hope,” she says.She started training at a facility in Rohtak. Her hard work paid off soon as she won her first bronze medal at a national event that year. Since then, there has been no looking back.Neetu has gone on to win medals at many national and international events.
She won a silver medal in the 48 kg category in the 35th National Games in Kerala. She has also represented the country in the World Junior Wrestling Championships in Brazil.Neetu, whose biggest idol is wrestler Sushil Kumar, is now being supported by the Sushil4Sports Foundation.“They have sponsored my stay in Rohtak for two months so I don’t have to travel up and down every day. Now, I go home on weekends. My family is my biggest support. I couldn’t have made it this far without my husband. And my boys, they make it so much easier by not insisting that I should always be with them. I feel I’ve made the right decision when I see the pride on their faces,” she says.

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