Vidya Kumari at JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur last week. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
She looks a lot like Deepika Kumari and has the same steady eyes fixed on the bullseye.
Meet Vidya Kumari (16), budding recurve champion and sibling of celebrity archer with the million-dollar smile. Not to forget, Vidya’s a cadet of Tata Archery Academy (TAA) in Jamshedpur and a second-year intermediate science student of Marwari College, Ranchi.
That’s a lot to handle for a 16-year-old. “As a junior cadet in TAA, I’m trying to bag a state slot. That’s my focus for now,” says the down-to-earth teenager.
Mention Deepika, and Vidya’s eyes light up. “She is 19 and a global name in archery. I want to follow in her footsteps but can’t dream of overtaking her.”
Some seven years ago, Deepika stepped out of the lower middle class home Ratu Chatti home and shot into sporting limelight through sheer talent.
Father Shivnarayan Mahto is an auto-rickshaw driver, mother Geeta a nurse. The sisters have a younger brother, 11-year-old Deepak.
Vidya doesn’t get to meet Deepika often due to the latter’s tours and training camps. “I met her last in June when she returned from World Cup in Antalya. But we spend quality time whenever she’s in Jamshedpur.”
Deepika is her biggest mentor “on everything from pimples to practice”.
“She tells me to be calm and concentrate hard. She stresses on the need to keep fit,” Vidya said.
And there is a lot of Big Sister pampering. “Deepika never forgets to buy cosmetics for me from abroad. She’s worried about my pimples. She’s given me an iPod as we’re both fond of listening to Lata Mangeshkar and Sonu Nigam, a glass for drinking milk, T-shirts and chocolates,” the sister chirped.
Deepika’s aim with the catapult as a child proved she had the makings of an archer. How did Vidya get into the Tata cradle?
“Dharmender Sir (TAA coach Dharmendra Tiwary) dropped home some two years ago and asked me to show him my bow hand (read left hand). That’s when he said, why don’t you try your luck in archery? Till then, I did train at the SAI Centre in Ranchi but wasn’t too serious. But Sir’s words stuck. I attended a selection trial and was admitted to TAA in September 2012,” Vidya said.
Coach and Dronacharya awardee Purnima, who has mentored Deepika too, said: “Vidya’s a hard worker.”
How does she like it at TAA? “Facilities are superb. I’m learning a lot from coaches Dharmendra Tiwary and Purnima Mahto. I attend practice sessions in mornings and evenings, while night shooting is lined up twice a week. After dinner, it’s TV time. I love comedies and Hindi film songs,” Vidya said.
Are siblings of celebrity achievers under too much pressure to make it big?