DEHRADUN: Know Dilraj Kaur (38) in a rewind: as the first female para rifle shooter from India, she has in her 17-year career won 28 gold, 5 silver and 6 bronze medals, including the World Games of 2007 in Taiwan and 2015 in Bengaluru.
Fast-forward to 2021: Dilraj and her mother sell biscuits and other eatables outside Gandhi Park, Dehradun. “We have lost almost everything my father, brother, and my career, almost. But my family will never give up. We don’t mind selling things on the streets. We will do anything because no work is small,” says Dilraj.
She lost her father in 2019 and her brother soon after that, leaving the family on the verge of a financial precipice. Gurdeep Kaur, her mother, was an active participant in the movement for Uttarakhand’s statehood. “I had a job offer which I declined on the condition that the job will be provided to my daughter. There was an enabling provision, but nothing of the sort happened,” laments Gurdeep.
The family tried many times to start afresh. They sold their house for the treatment of Dilraj’s brother and father. The family now lives in rented accommodation. Debts kept mounting and Gurdeep had to take up stitching.
“I tried to do odd jobs, but couldn’t find my feet. The Covid pandemic and lockdown snatched from us whatever little we had,” says Dilraj. Her marriage failed because of her husband’s drug addiction.
Dilraj’s saddest moment came in 2019. She was the chief guest at an event in Gurugram when she received the news of her brother’s demise. “I will never be able to forget those moments. My body went cold, my throat was dry and I froze for a while. I had to leave the event,” recalls Dilraj. She represented India in the International Paralympic Committee World Cup in 2015 and officiated in several selection committees as well as shooting competitions.