Sarada and Sajana Sajeevan: Like mother, like daughter

The all-rounder from Mananthavady, who grew up watching her mother's social work, made her India debut in the first T20I against Bangladesh on Sunday.
Sajana with her mother Sarada and father Sajeevan in her childhood.
Sajana with her mother Sarada and father Sajeevan in her childhood.Photo | Special Arrangement

CHENNAI: On Monday, less than 24 hours after the first T20I between India and Bangladesh concluded in Sylhet, Sarada Sajeevan was at a family function in Mananthavady. Being the Councillor of Gorimoola ward in the district and having been involved in public service for almost three decades, Sarada is a familiar figure in the district. Wherever any of her family members go, they are recognised by her name.

However, something had changed permanently on Sunday. Sarada and Sajeevan's daughter, Sajana, had made her debut for the country. And it instantly reflected at the function Sarada was attending.

"Everyone was so happy; they were like, 'Look, Indian player's mom is going, Indian player's mom is going'. I have got that label now," Sarada laughs.

"A long time ago, she told me, 'When I go to town, people will call me Sarada's daughter. I want to change that. I want them to know you as Sajana's mother. Now, it has happened," says Sarada.

One can sense the joy and pride in Sarada's voice as she talks about her daughter. She and Sajeevan were glued to the stream (there is no TV broadcast for the series) at their house, Sajana Nivas, in Choottakkadavu, hoping that their daughter would get a chance to bat in the first T20I.

And when she finally came out to bat at No. 6, they were over the moon. Sajana got out for a run-a-ball 11 and India won the match by 44 runs. "Mole, rendu four adichu. (She hit two fours.) We were so happy. She is an India player now," Sarada laughs.

At this point, Sajana's journey is well known. Whether it is the hardships the family endured during the Kerala floods in 2018 or the financial struggles of pursuing cricket, it is all documented.

After the Kerala all-rounder got an opportunity in the Women's Premier League earlier this year, Sajana rose to fame with a first-ball six that helped the Mumbai Indians win the season opener against the Delhi Capitals.

While it was the moment that brought all the limelight on her, what, perhaps, has gone under the radar is the years and years of toil in domestic cricket.

To put things into context, she had played 13 years of domestic cricket before getting a chance in the WPL. And beneath all the struggle and persistence is a grounded individual who wants to make things happen no matter what.

It is a trait Sajana has had from a very young age. With both her parents working, her father being an autorickshaw driver, and her mother, a panchayat ward member, Sarada enrolled her in a hostel at the age of six. And that is where Sajana took to sports. When she wanted to pursue cricket, Sarada did not hesitate.

"Everyone was afraid but not me. As someone who is involved in social work, I knew it was the right thing to do, to let her play. She used to play with boys and even if people around said something to me I have never told her anything. I know she can take care of herself. Maybe I was worried a little later, but when I saw the prizes she had won, the hesitation went away. I keep telling her 'You are a brave woman and go and do whatever you want'. She knows that too," Sarada recalls.

Listening to her talk about Sajana, it is hard not to notice Sarada's influence in shaping her daughter's life. Sarada became a panchayat ward member after she got married. In the past 30 years, she has seen everything as a public servant.

"When I got into politics, I did not know much. Then, I read a lot and learned on the job. Back then, we lived in a small room. After ten years of hard work, we finally got this house in a government allotment. I became a notable panchayat president because of my public service. I have just not gone to jail, everything else I have endured in my public service. Sajana saw all the struggles while growing up so she knows it too. Even during COVID, Sajana was inspired by the community kitchen scheme and used to give tea and food in the morning and evening to the families in our neighbourhood and the police who were on duty. They all adored her."

While Sarada had her share of influence in Sajana becoming the person she is and is grateful for everyone who has helped her along the way, she credits her daughter for being her own woman. "She brought herself up all on her own," she says.

"She never said she would study, but she always said she would play cricket and achieve something. She used to say, 'Even if I don't make it as a player, I will coach a few kids and make a living for myself, amma'. We have not travelled outside to see her play (in WPL). She said she would take us one day on a flight. It is such a blessing to have such a daughter," says Sarada.

The house they live in at the moment has one room on the ground floor where Sajana and her brother stay, while her parents live upstairs in an incomplete room.

"The house is still not cleared (loan). Despite all the struggles, she has got here and now our family will be fine. That is what I was feeling (when she got selected for India). Because to see your children achieve things and do things for you is a blessing. I have given my daughter to Choottakkadavu, to Mananthavady, to Kerala, and to India. If our daughter does well, it is a matter of pride for everyone, right?" Sarada signed off.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express