GUWAHATI: Rupees 10,000 is more than just a sum for Puja Basumatary. It’s an elixir to a life of contentment and hope. There is an interesting story behind this. When she qualified for the National Sports Academy in Imphal in 2015, she almost did not go. The reason? She did not have Rs 10,000 — the amount required for admission.
Now, after initial spurts of struggle — both physical and psychological — she draws a Khelo India scholarship of Rs 10,000 a month. “Right now, I spend out of my pocket for participating in various tournaments,” she says.
“I don’t ask much from home. The Khelo India salary (scholarship) — Rs 10000 — is a big help. Recently I’ve got Rs 30000 (quarterly amount). I could come here by flight.”
“I share my scholarship with my family too,” says the 17-year-old judoka from Karbi Anglong in Assam. “I’ve been getting the Khelo India scholarships for the last one year. All my sports expenses are taken care of by this.”
The judoka clinched Assam’s first gold in the sport at Khelo India Youth Games here in U-17 57kg division. Overnight fame and a little bit of recognition has rekindled her passion and urge to succeed. She is more composed and is confident.
“I want to represent India in senior international meets and win medals,” she says. As she steps outside the judo hall at the Sports Authority of India regional centre in Paltan Bazar here, her words turn solemn while recalling days of struggle. A smile though soon appears as she talks of her cadet and junior medals and how she was the first Assamese girl to be in the national camp. In bits of Assamese and Hindi, she narrates her journey.
Her father is a truck driver and mother a homemaker. The youngest of the three sisters, she was selected for the academy when in Class VII. “We were wondering how to pay the fees,” she recalls. Going to Imphal was easy because it was closer home. However, Bhopal was a lot more complex. No money and too far.
“My father helped a lot when it was time for me to go to Manipur. My mother always motivates me. At that time, there were a lot of (financial) problems,” she recalls.
“In 2018, when I had to go to Bhopal, there were a lot of problems at home. The flight tickets alone cost around Rs 9 to Rs 10 thousand. My sister was telling me to not go and that it was too far. And I told them that it was ok and that they just had to help me. My uncle (Sunil) also helped me financially. He supports me in sports a lot. He was supposed to come here but he is a teacher and his students have exams right now.”
“Another uncle is a policeman and he also helped with the money. So I was able to go to Bhopal. Once I got there, I sent my first salary to my mother. It arrives in batches of Rs 30000, for every three months.”
Puja fondly remembers her first coach Gunamani Meitei at the academy. Now she trains under national coach Yashpal Solanki. Assam’s Phanibrata Das too played a role.
“I practice three times and it’s different at the national camp,” she says. “It’s much more intense and there is a lot of healthy competition. I need to improve so that I can be the national champion.” She is at No 7 on the ranking list.
Puja is in Cass XII now and the situation at home no longer bother her. One of her sisters is a teacher and she thinks if she plays well, she will eventually land a job. But right now judo is all she thinks about. The job will come later.
Maharashtra top table after Day 4
Maharashtra’s athletes had a productive day at the Khelo India Youth Games on Tuesday, entrenching themselves at the top of the charts with a total of 107 medals of which 27 were gold. They left Haryana trailing with 21 gold medals and a total of 67. Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala were next in the tally.
Gold for junior national champ
Junior and Youth National table tennis champion Diya Chitale of Maharashtra emerged the U-17 girls’ singles champion on Tuesday. In an all-Maharashtra singles final, the 16-year-old edged statemate Swastika Ghosh 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 3-11, 13-11. She also won the doubles bronze.