The Telegraph
Thursday , July 15 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Medal keeps kho-kho girl going

Cooch Behar, July 14: Beethi Khatun presents a strange sight as she stoops to plant paddy saplings alongside adults in a flooded field: she is in a colourful jersey and a medal dangles from a ribbon round her neck.

A student of Class VI at Gitaldaha High School, 50km from Cooch Behar town, Beethi was part of the Bengal kho-kho team that was the runners-up at the National Sub-junior Kho-Kho Championship. The meet was held from June 25 to 29 at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.

However, the 12-year-old girl had to get back to the tireless drudgery of the paddy field once she returned home. “I have to go to work whenever there are no classes. I help my brother tend to the crops on our four-bigha land. Otherwise, I work for someone else at Rs 30 a day. I sometimes skip school but I never skip practice,” said Beethi.

She goes for practice at the Okrabari Naba Pragati Sangha, about 5km from her home in Bhorampoyosti village. She is trained by the club’s secretary, Ajit Barman, a former coach of the Bengal kho-kho team.

“A kho-kho coaching camp had been organised in Gitaldaha in April by the West Bengal Sports Council. Five boys and girls were chosen and taken to Calcutta. While four of them returned, Beethi was selected for the Bengal sub-junior team,” the coach said.

Beethi’s widowed mother Kukila Bewa said her husband had died when Beethi was a student of Class II. “I have seven other children and after my husband’s death I took Beethi with me to Delhi where I work as a mason’s helper. Now that she is in Class VI, I go to Delhi each year while she stays here,” she said.

Beethi is the youngest of Kukila’s five daughters and three sons. Two of Beethi’s brothers have married and settled down elsewhere. Three of her sisters have also been married off.

“We can hardly make ends meet and the only good clothes I have is the one I wear to school and the jersey and track suit given by the Bengal Kho-kho Association. I wear the medal as a lucky charm. One day, if I win a gold medal, our problems will be over,” Beethi said.

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