When the Queen strikes: the story of a carrom champion

When the Queen strikes: the story of a carrom champion


My name is Aisha Mohammad I was born and brought up in Ulhasnagar, Thane [district] I was born in 1983 From my school till my college I studied in Ulhasnagar It’s been two years since I moved to Jalgaon after I got a job at Jain Irrigation But we play all the matches [and tournaments] from Mumbai district I started playing carrom in 1990 My daddy brought a the carrom board home and we played the game at home At that time, a local carrom tournament was held in Ulhasnagar –
anyone could enter [participate] there So, daddy entered my name there My very first round was with an elderly player. I don’t remember his name though But it was a senior player with whom I played a match I lost in the first round itself, but he encouraged me to play Even after I lost in the first round he gifted a small trophy to me I was just 7-8 years old. I was very happy, as it was my first trophy So from that day onwards I decided that I have to play this game Since daddy had got a carrom at home,
I used to practice at home with him after I got back from school In 1992 I played my first junior state level match in Dombivali I lost in the quarter final there, though I was selected among the top six players
who qualified for the national [level tournament] In December 1992 I played the junior national tournament in Assam Actually, when you say ‘carrom’ it means one thing,
but once you add the word ‘club’ to it the meaning changes I am telling you this from every parent’s perspective –
when you say ‘carrom club’ it makes them doubtful [Parents wonder that if] they are saying ‘club’ then what kind of club is it… And so they don’t give permission to their children to go to the club So then women just cannot go to these spaces,
because the parents might wonder what kind of club it is… Is it for gambling… [a place] where women just cannot go Whereas there aren’t any such restrictions on men.
That’s why more men enter [participate in tournaments] Women first have to look after their homes If she has a job she has to manage that as well And only then, if she can, she will play a match As a result, there are fewer women participants If the environment of carrom clubs is women-friendly
then we should go and practice there Why? Because a lot men play there And nowadays in Mumbai they are so good at their game
that if we practice with them Then I’d say we can win a national [tournament] My name was Sujata Santosh Hyalinge In 2000 we [Maharashtra’s team] went for the Ongole
national tournament in Andhra Pradesh At that time, Mohammad Sajid was also selected to
play [by the federation] in the tournament That’s when we first met… After I returned from the Maldives tournament in 2001-02 He and I got married in 2003 There was a lot of opposition from our families,
but still we decided we will get married It’s the three of us, right? Yes, this is Gateway of India One year after our marriage Sajid got gangrene in his leg Due to which he was on complete bed rest for four years Even then, both of us would go to play I specially would go to play Eight years after our marriage my son Hamza was born See this! A twin Hamza Yes, twin Hamza This photo is from Chennai We had a small shop in Crawford Market And we managed with that The money Sajid and I won from the tournaments also kept our home running After Sajid got gangrene I did a variety of jobs [in the private sector] Whatever I earned from that was used on his medication and hospital expenses But I really want to say that despite my difficult condition And though I was already a Chhatrapati award winner by then I didn’t get a government job I felt really sad that even after all the hard work I didn’t get a job While my other co-players all got a job I felt sad about that, but Sajid never asked me to quit
playing carrom to focus on my job I used to manage both my job and also play carrom This is from the Mayor’s Championship of 2004-05 Both of us participated I was the winner and Sajid was the runner-up This is the Maharashtra men’s team and this is the ladies team I was in the third position in the Malaysian open tournament in 2007 See it’s like this… if the husband doesn’t support his wife she can’t do much Even though she is capable of doing whatever she wants I used to only tell her when she didn’t have a job
that she should give her biodata wherever she wanted Wherever there was a vacancy There was a vacancy at BSNL Aisha has a friend, Rashmi Kumari, who personally recommended Aisha there So Aisha went to Santacruz and gave her biodata They responded that Aisha is not the kind of player they want to recruit They said they wanted a high-level player Now you tell me… She is a Chhatrapati award winner,
has three gold medals and is an international winner What other kind of player did they want? There was also the problem of caste, of religious discrimination…
of not letting us progress… We faced a lot of problems at that time This is from a SAARC championship There was an event where they felicitated all the Chhatrapati award winners Every player who has played at an international level representing Maharashtra,
dreams of winning the Shiv Chhatrapati Krida Puraskar I won the 2003-04 Shiv Chhatrapati Krida Puraskar The year I was supposed to win the award a lot people told me that
I wouldn’t get it because I had changed my name I was also told that I should have continued playing
with my previous name People told us a lot of other things… But I couldn’t do anything If I had played using my previous name I wouldn’t have been
allowed to play the matches from Mumbai district Because my name had changed and I had submitted all my name change
documents and certificates to the [Mumbai Carrom] Association So I had to play in my new name People gave us various opinions –
when we heard them, we were very shocked… We decided that if I don’t win, let it be I won’t win today or tomorrow or for a year,
but I would somehow win someday for sure The same year that I had applied for the award I went with my mummy to Pune to submit my original documents and certificates The madam who was in charge there told me, ‘Aisha, it’s like this…
there’s only a slight chance you will win the award in this name’ So she suggested that I don’t use my [changed] name,
and they will take care of all the further procedures and forms So I used my previous [birth] name and left it to the Almighty.
If I win it would be okay, but if I don’t, that is also fine I did win the award the same year, in my previous name –
I received the Chattrapati award in the name of Sujata Santosh Hyalinge Well, it is fine. Whether I win in my previous name
or by using my current name, it doesn’t matter I am still the same person I want to say that today what we see – religion in sports –
that should not be there If anyone wakes me up even from my sleep and asks me what’s your answer It will be that you should not bring religion and caste into sports A sport is for everyone and it brings everyone together You have not individually created the sport, it can be played by anyone From the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich – anyone can play sports

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