My Fundays 20-12-2006
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- Published 20.12.06
I spent my childhood in a remote village near Ranaghat. Ours was a joint family but one day my father and his brother decided to go the nuclear way. But my grandma and we — her 12 grandchildren — were dead against the idea. We would sit for lunch and dinner in a single row. Goodies would drop on our plates from both the kitchens and the division turned meaningless in no time! Grandma is still very close to all of us. While I was in Athens for the Olympics, she enquired where I was. No one’s answer could satisfy her. Then my elder brother told her, “Athens is someplace beyond the seven seas and thirteen rivers,” and she was satisfied.
I was the youngest and also the naughtiest child who loved to play with the boys because they didn’t play with dolls! I loved to play and run around. I would follow my father and the farmers to the paddy fields miles away and would return home riding our buffalo. I used to bully my elder sister a great deal. I would also overpower all my other sisters, for which I would often be punished by the elders.
I went to a school three kilometres away from home. We were the first batch of students and I was the only girl in a class of 12 students. There was Manta, a plump and simple fellow, whom others loved to tease by calling him mota . No one dared to do so when I was around. There were two dogs in a house near the school who would chase me everyday. So, on the way back from school, I used to stop near that house and hitch a ride from villagers who came on bicycles. One day, it was raining and there was nobody to help me. I was so scared that I jumped into a pond and cried for help!
The day I started doing long jumps was a nightmarish experience. My eldest sister’s classmate Biren Bhowmik was a self-styled athlete. He used to practice alone. When I asked him to let me practice in his pit he refused, saying that I was too young to take part in athletics. I picked up a spade angrily and started digging a pit for myself. It was nearly done when a friend of mine came too close and got hurt. Initially, I thought it was not serious and tried to apply some lotion to the wound. But the bleeding continued and he had to be taken to the hospital which was far away. On his return, father was furious and called for me. I ran away as fast as I could and vanished into one of the houses. At night, neighbours appealed on my behalf and I was pardoned only because I ran faster than my father who was a footballer and an athlete as well!
That day onwards I received total support from my father. I remember the day when I won a medal for the first time in Aranghata. It was a memorable occasion.
As told to Sipra Sen Saha