Ayesha Noor throws a punch. (Bishwarup Dutta)
Ayesha Noor knows only one way to respond to a taunt: jump, swivel, stretch right leg and — bam!
“Inside the ring, she is pretty fired up,” says her trainer M.A. Ali, leaving unsaid what she might be like outside it.
He should know. His teenaged tigress just landed a kick on his right hand in reply to a playful taunt. He counter-attacked with a jab at her face, which she ducked before unleashing a flurry of blows, this time to his left hand.
Brown belt Ayesha, 16, lives with her family in a one-room house sandwiched between two biryani shops in Beniapukur’s congested Mofidul Islam Lane. She trains every day at the Ramleela ground in Entally and spends every Sunday evening coaching girls in self-defence at a park opposite Rajabazar Science College.
It’s Ayesha’s way of giving back what karate has given her: the confidence to stand up to any challenge. “Sunday mornings fill me with excitement. I get to interact with so many girls and train them in self-defence, a helpful tool in these times,” she says, wrapping a scarf around her head.
Sports minister Madan Mitra and deputy mayor Farzana Alam had inaugurated Ali’s self-defence camp after the Delhi bus gang rape last year.
In her gi (the traditional karateka attire), Ayesha herself looks more a rookie than the combative martial art exponent and assistant trainer that she is. Her list of achievements tells a different story.
Ayesha is the only girl in a 12-member Indian team going to Thailand next month to compete in the Thai Pitchai International Youth Karate Championship. “I feel good but I will be happier if I return victorious,” she says.
Ayesha took to karate barely six years ago after seeing her elder brother Farooque training under Ali, a world karate champion in 1988.
Their father Noor Mohammad, a taxi driver, had been a bodybuilder until his death four years ago.
“Karate demands strict discipline and practice to maintain consistency,” says Ayesha, crediting mother Shakeela’s encouragement and her daily regimen for her rise.
In 2012, Ayesha won three gold medals in state and national karate championships, making her a strong contender for a ticket to Thailand.
Her role model is not a karateka, though. Ayesha idolises boxer Mary Kom from Manipur. “Both of us are in combat sports,” she grins.
And just as it has been for Kom, Ayesha’s never-say-die spirit comes in handy not only in competition but in life, too.
Her eldest brother Tanveer is the Noor family’s breadwinner, working as a temporary shoe salesman. There are days when he doesn’t find work and the uncertainty threatens to end Ayesha’s career.
“The sports department is paying Ayesha’s airfare but we still need money for her food and lodging,” says trainer Ali.
But Ayesha is unfazed. “I was born to fight, both inside and outside the ring,” she declares.
Attagirl, we say.
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