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‘Unfit are easy prey’

Supriya Chaudhuri

Students at Jadavpur University down the years remember Supriya Chaudhuri, now Professor Emeritus in the department of English, as an extremely fit and athletic person, demonstrating karate chops at departmental meets, and bowling and batting with elan at teacher-student matches. Chaudhuri, a black belt (Shodan) in kyokushinkaikan karate who had represented the University of Oxford in both badminton and karate, tells Metro why attaining physical fitness should be a way of life.

While schools starting martial arts classes is a welcome initiative, any athletic pursuit should be encouraged. Engagement in active sports or NCC drills is likely to build confidence and increase alertness, helping one tackle a situation. The girl who could chase down the man harassing her (in Bally, Howrah, last week) had the confidence to do so as she is a swimming champion.

Unfortunately, our school system encourages students to stay caught in the passive cycle of classes, tuitions and textbooks. That is why girls, and even boys, lack fitness and become victims easily.

Students who take part in the National School Games are a handful and usually train not at school but under the aegis of some club.

It is not as if learning martial art, or any sport, would allow one to resist in case of armed assault, as was the case in Delhi. But in a less serious situation, one who is confident of one’s own physical abilities would never cower.

In the Western education system, students are encouraged to take part in a variety of sports. Which is why street harassment in the form of lewd comments, stalking or groping is relatively uncommon. Women would just not put up with it.

Even in our childhood, this culture of sports existed among children and adults. I grew up playing all kinds of street sports with local boys. Now adults can no longer play sports unless they are members of some elite club.

Badminton matches under lights in the para are a thing of the past, as are the sports tournaments organised by local clubs where older men also played. Now all that ordinary individuals can do after leaving college is go to a gym to lose weight and start morning walks after retirement.

I have always taken part in active sports and don’t see any reason to stop, despite my ‘retirement’.