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Queen’s tongue for goalpost girl
- Bigan’s English-Vinglish to junk global perceptions about tribal players

“How are you? Relaxing?” “No, I am Milkha Singh.”

The above exchange, said to be a fictional liberty in legendary sprinter Milkha Singh’s biopic played by Farhan Akthtar, is more than a pleasantry.

Many Indian sportspersons from humble backgrounds get tongue-tied on the global platforms only because they don’t understand or speak English. But in an age where image matters as much as performance, Jharkhand’s tribal hockey sensation Bigan Soy is taking no chances.

Four months after she shot to fame with her precision goal-keeping against England in Junior Women Hockey World Cup in Germany and gifted India a historic bronze, Indian hockey’s iron lass is now working overtime to learn English.

“Hello, good morning sir,” she smiles, walking into a meeting room after a two-hour practice at SAI (Sports Authority of India) centre, Birsa Munda football stadium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Friday.

Two weeks into her English tutorials at SAI hostel, she is yet to be fluent in the language but sprinkles words and phrases such as “I am fine”, “sure”, “very much” and “okay”.

Till recently, much like Sridevi’s character in Bolly hit English-Vinglish, who couldn’t speak English, Bigan was the stereotype of a reticent tribal girl. But now, she exudes easy confidence.

So what made her join English classes? “English toh aage badne ke liye must hai,” she shot back in Hinglish.

The player added ever since she returned to Ranchi after her maiden international exposure in Germany, learning English was high on her to-do list.

Speaking in Hindi, she explained why. “If a foreign coach trains us, we can’t understand his or her instructions or express our problems. When we go abroad for tournaments, language poses a barrier,” she said.

She also added that knowing English would change perceptions about tribal sportspersons.

“When I was in Germany, I was nervous. But I want to prove to the world that tribal and rural girls like me can also speak at any platform,” said the girl who hails from Bandgaon village in the rebel-hit Khunti-Chaibasa belt.

Indian Railways has offered Bigan a job, but asked her to complete her BA in at least four years. “I will squeeze time out of my (hockey) practice schedules and do that anyhow,” said the girl who has completed her BA part I from Birsa College, Khunti.

Bigan is also learning computers. “Bahut tight schedule ho jata hai aaj kal but no pain, no gain. (I have a tight schedule but no gain without pain),” she grinned.

Ranchi SAI director S.K. Verma said he was happy when Bigan expressed her desire to learn English and computers. “We run English and computer tutorials at our SAI hostel during afternoons three days a week each. Soft skills are needed in today’s world,” Verma said.

Is Bigan the new-age face of rural tribal aspirations? Tell