Anita Kumari with her parents at their Bhelatand residence in Dhanbad on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
It’s a track that leads to nowhere, a 23-year-old girl cyclist has realised after being in the competitive sport in Jharkhand for almost 10 years.
The story of Anita Kumari (23) of Bhelatand, Dhanbad, could have been that of any other sportsperson in the state, who has talent but no government support, and hasn’t been at the right place at the right time.
Anita started off with a bang. She won an individual time trial silver for the state in the national Under-17 road cycling championship held in Chennai in November 2007.
It should have been the springboard for bigger and better things. Clinging on the hope, Anita, one of four siblings of a very modest family, whose father works in the security department of a colliery at Sijua, doggedly persisted with her cycling.
Even when she didn’t win a medal in the National Games, 2011, in Ranchi, she felt optimistic.
“I was so enthusiastic that we had world class racing cycles and a velodrome. But I realised they didn’t come for free. I’d expected the state to recognise the needs of cyclists and help us practise,” she rued, adding that grandiose schemes for a cycling academy didn’t take off.
The girl with an intermediate degree under her belt is now preparing for railway and banking exams.
“I am off practise for the past four months. I’m trying to study to bag a job,” she told The Telegraph over phone from her Dhanbad home.
“Cycling kar ke kya haseel hoga. Jharkhand mein khiladiyon ke liye kuch nahi hota. Ab aur cycling nahin karne ka man bana rahin hun (What will I get out of cycling? Nothing happens to sportspersons in Jharkhand. Seriously thinking of quitting),” she added.
With age, the girl has realised the pressures on her father and elder brother to sustain their six-member family. “We are three sisters and a brother. My parents are also worried about our futures. Obviously, I have to be realistic,” she said.
Her parents, understandably for their level of exposure perhaps, refused to permit her to go to Punjab for a career in cycling. “I had an offer from Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar to pursue studies and cycling,” she said. “I couldn’t take it up.”
Her six-year-old racing cycle is also not in very good shape.
Even early this year, Anita rode 20km to practise with Dhanbad cycling mates Ram Kumar Bhatt and Navin Kumar.
“Even six months ago, I was positive about a career in cycling. But my cycle and I have both lost steam. My family has told me to look for some other career-oriented course. I am still young,” Anita added.
Battle-weary Anita sometimes touches her cycle fondly. “You may laugh, but it’s been my trusted ally. Giving up a sport I love will be the toughest thing I’ll ever do perhaps,” said the dejected girl.
Jharkhand Cycling Association secretary Satbir Singh Sahota said the state would lose a promising pedal talent if Anita decided to quit. “Her (Anita) bidding good-bye would be a sad commentary on the state of the sport,” he added.
How can Anita make a comeback? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org