I dedicate my
victory to everybody
who showed faith in
Ayesha Noor, the karate kid from Beniapukur who had to depend on the kindness of strangers to make it to Thailand for an international competition, has repaid the debt with gold.
Ayesha, 16, delivered a knockout performance against her Japanese rival in the final of her weight category at the Thai Pitchai Youth International in Bangkok on October 7.
“I dedicate my victory to everybody who showed faith in me,” Ayesha told Metro, fiddling with the tablet that came with the gold trophy.
Coach M.A. Ali, who was with her in Bangkok, said the best thing about his ward’s achievement was that she remained undefeated in the nine bouts she had to fight to strike gold. Girls from the US, Maldives, Nepal and Thailand were among the contenders.
“I concentrated on winning each bout instead of being burdened by the thought of reaching the final,” Ayesha said of her winning strategy.
Metro had highlighted Ayesha’s grit and her everyday struggles in the quest for glory on September 23. The brown belt lives in a one-room house in Mofidul Islam Lane and trains at the Ramleela ground in Entally. She spends Sunday evenings coaching girls in self-defence at a camp run by her coach in a park opposite Rajabazar Science College.
Ayesha admitted to being nervous when she landed in Bangkok, though not because of the prospect of facing some competition in the fighting arena.
“My mother was not by my side and that did make me a little nervous,” said the teenaged tigress, who isn’t averse to landing a kick even on her black-belt coach, if provoked.
Loneliness apart, Ayesha’s challenge in Bangkok was to beat a stomach bug that had struck the day she boarded the flight out of Calcutta.
Since returning home victorious, Ayesha has barely had time to contemplate the enormity of her achievement. Relatives and friends have been filing into the one-room house sandwiched between two biryani joints every day to congratulate her.
“My mother is very happy,” Ayesha said, flashing that shy smile that hides her mental toughness.
The 16-year-old had almost given up on her dream of competing abroad last month because her family couldn’t afford to pay for her trip.
Ayesha’s taxi driver father died some years ago and her eldest brother Tanveer has since been the family’s breadwinner. Tanveer’s earnings as a shoe salesman are hardly enough to keep the kitchen stove burning, let alone foot his sister’s travel bill of close to Rs 60,000.
Generous contributions from strangers ensured that Ayesha’s dream didn’t die young.
“There were more than 50 contributions. Money arrived from places like Saudi Arabia, Boston, Rajasthan and Maharashtra after people read about Ayesha in The Telegraph,” coach Ali said.
The teenager, who took up karate under Ali’s tutelage only six years ago, aspires to train in Thailand to become a better fighter.
“Martial arts is treated with a great deal of respect there. They have good infrastructure,” Ayesha said.
She knows finding sponsorship will be a challenge, but not impossible.
For now, memories of the Bangkok triumph are enough to keep the fire burning in this Beniapukur girl’s eyes.
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