Sunday, May 17, 2020

BookMarks #68: We Are The Champions

Title: We Are The Champions
Authors: Devendra Tak & Rashmi Bansal
Genre: Social Issues. Children Rights
Published: 2020

These are inspiring tales of children who did not have much to begin with but never lost hope and their fight gave hope to those around them. 

Here are the children, some now young adults whose stories are highlighted in this book.
  • Ayonara, once a victim herself now fighting against child trafficking in Bengal
  • Anju campaigning for equal rights for girls in Haryana.
  • Hasnain fighting against drugs in Kashmir
  • Jhulima raising awareness against child marriage and also improving education in tribal areas of Odisha.
  • Shailendra taking up social causes through a bal samooh in Tonk
  • Kalavathi improving her school facilities in Karnataka.
  • Sujanti fighting against the practice of dowry in Bihar
  • Saleha teaching hygiene and health in Govandi
  • Subhdeep Kaur re-enrolled for school and fighting for children's rights in Punjab.
  • Roshani preventing child marriages in Tonk, Rajasthan
  • Rumi education for tribal girls in Jharkhand
  • Soni who found in cricket an opportunity to move up in life
  • Salman starting his acting journey
  • Sumit using rap music to generate social awareness
These young citizens have helped raise the living standards of their community at large as well. These inspiring tales also tell us how much more has to be done in our country to raise the living standards of all citizens and bring them on an equal footing. 

Previously on BookMarks: The Fire Burns Blue

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

BookMarks #67: The Fire Burns Blue

Title: The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India
Authors: Karunya Keshav & Sidhanta Patnaik
Genre: Sports History
Published: 2018

The Fire Burns Blue – presents the story of the journey of Indian Women’s cricket in India from its difficult initial days in the 1970s to the highs of 2017 and its aftermath. When women’s cricket became cricket in India!

‘She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history’ – a line which is apt for the average Indian cricket fan for whom women’s cricket barely registered even less than Cooch Behar trophy at times. And why blame fans, the game barely registered even with cricket statisticians. Just check cricinfo, which has a massive stats section. While random Men’s games dating back to mid-19th century have first-class status and are well documented in records, the women stats cover only internationals! So somebody like Ashleigh Barty has a profile on cricinfo but no stats to tell us about her on-field achievements!

Well I digress. Coming back to the book which is a treasure trove for the fans. The book begins with Haarmanpreet Kaur’s 171 in the 2017 World Cup Semi-Finals which finally captured the imagination of the cricket lovers in India for good. And then commences the journey from the very beginning.

The game had humble beginnings with small clubs in Bombay and other places sprouting in the 70s. This was followed by the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association of India and the first national championships. The book goes on to tell the stories of the first international touring teams and the first official matches. How Railways played a big part by first becoming the employer of choice of women cricketers and using that player base to maintain its hegemony on the Indian domestic circuit. And there were the long arduous train journeys and its accompanying travails. 

The journey is also a series of missed opportunities. There were times when the game could have taken off in India but for a variety of reasons did not. In fact there have been major controversies immediately after a high! Sometimes due to administrative apathy, sometimes cash crunch, sometimes infighting and player revolt, some personnel changes, and sometimes just not getting the results on field. India even missed playing a World Cup also. But always the game found a new benefactor somewhere!

The book does a good job in narrating the stories of individual cricketers while merging them with the specific issues facing women’s cricket and even women's sport in general.

A couple of passages from the book which stand out and also gives us a peek at how the journey has evolved.
"The Indian women’s team—skilfull, stylish, solid, shy, eager, kind, hungry, hard-working, driven, very good on so many days and frustrating on others—is yet to sort through everything it is and really define what kind of cricket it wants to play on the global stage."

And the second one on the leading lights of the game
"Shantha’s stature, Diana’s grit, Shubhangi’s steadiness, Sandhya’s skill, Purnima’s cheek, Neetu’s genius, Anjum’s fire, Mithali’s class, Rumeli’s promise, Jhulan’s warmth, Harman’s spark—these are the pillars of Indian women’s cricket that have held up the edifice so far. Now, as the journey gets ready to take another turn, add to it Smriti’s fearlessness."

Fun Facts
  1. Shireen Kiash represented India in cricket, hockey and basketball - a triple international!
  2. The choice of attire was something the Women’s Cricket Association in England spent considerable time on, specifying that the skirts ‘should be no shorter than four inches from the ground when kneeling’.
  3. India win their first Test against the West Indies in Patna in 1976 (a game which is often narrated to me by my father who was actually present aat the stadium)
Interestingly, I began this book around the time of the 2020 World T20 tournament where the Indian team reached another peak in its journey. While cornovirus may have stopped play, hopefully we will see the team go onward and upward.

Previously on BookMarks: University of Berkshire Hathaway