Way back in 1971, a girl from Sivasagar district of Assam made a mark in the field of sports by becoming the first woman athlete who broke a national record in Discus Throw and won a medal for her home state at the national platform. After that there was no looking back, she is none other than Tayabun Nisha. Despite witnessing the plethora of challenges which life has thrown at her, it was Tayabun’s determination and hard work that led her to become five times National Games champion in Discus throw since 1971, and represented the country in several international events across the world.
Almost, after five decades, history seems to repeat itself when Hima Das, became the first Indian woman to win a gold, at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships, 2018 in the 400m final race. Hima, who hails from Dhing village in Assam’s Nagaon district has been able to earn for herself the title of “Golden Girl” within a very short span of time. The courage, determination and will power of Hima has proved that, if one desires s/he can conquer the track even if one needs to practice through the paddy fields of the village.
The common quotient between these two athletes are- talent exists even in the rural areas and women are no less when it comes to sports in Assam, who out of sheer passion has been able to garner a name for themselves as well as the state and the country. In an effort to understand the sports culture in Assam, Tayabun Nisha uplifts some of the vital points while conversing with MUMENINAZ ZAMAN.
Photo credit: Abdul Gani
Hima Das, has brought laurels to the country through her spectacular performance by becoming the first Indian athlete to win gold medal in the 400 metre track event at the IAAF World U-20 Championships held at Tampere, Finland. Share your opinion on her achievement.
Indeed, Hima’s outstanding achievement was a moment of proud for all of us. People usually get this position after vigorous years of practice, but what Hima did within a short period of time was unimaginable. She has proved that Assam is a hub of talent which consists of sports person, who left no stone unturned to garner this golden position.
In 1971, you have earned the title of the first women athlete to win a medal for Assam by breaking a national record in Discus throw and represented the country in several international events across the globe. Being a woman from a village what were the challenges and struggles that you faced during those days while conquering your dreams? Share your experience on your exceptional achievement.
In 1971, I participated in the 9th Inter State Athletic Meet which was held in Ahmedabad and secured a bronze medal there. Women from the village never expected this result, but whenever we got an opportunity to showcase our talent we would grab it instantly. I never received any formal training or proper coaching. In fact, there was no provision in the village where we could get the guidance. Moreover, it was a tough period for me since I lost both my parents at a young age and I also have to shoulder the responsibility towards my family and look after whatever agricultural possessions we have.
Whatever the consequences were I was determined and focused towards my goal and the struggles rather made me stronger. Eventually, I kept participating in various levels, and in 1974 I broke a 12 year old national record in Discus throw. Later I also took part in Asian Games, 1982 which was held in New Delhi, where I missed the medal. This made me realize that if provided with proper facilities we could have competed with other countries who were much advanced and trained in their respective field of sports.
I am happy that Hima who also hails from a village got the opportunity of getting trained under the guidance of some good coach, and this definitely facilitated her progress on the track.
Do you think the shortcomings are still prevalent in the state, which are the major cause of concern for the aspiring athletes to showcase their talent in the national and international platform.
To some extent I think the shortcomings are still existing in our state. No doubt, Hima has proved that talent exists in small villages, but the irony is the authorities concerned does not seem to be bothered about uplifting the rural talents. It is prevalent by the fact that we have never gained a good position in the Olympics. That is why it has become utmost important to bring forth the talent and give them the guidance, platform and opportunity in a constructive manner. And I must mention that there are a lot of women who have the potential to prove themselves in various sports but the lack of proper facilities has kept them away from the limelight.
Recently Assam has seen some major developments in the sports arena, be it hosting the South Asian Games 2016, AIBA 2017, FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 et al. According to you what is the present sports scenario in the state?
I appreciate the initiatives of organizing such events, but still there is a lot more to be done to ignite the spirit of sports culture in Assam. Whenever there is a sport event, people buy tickets and watch them, but even if one or two percent of the people encourage their children to take up sports, Assam would have reached greater heights in the field of sports. Sports is not only about playing a game to earn name or fame, rather it is necessary to keep one physically and mentally active.
The teenagers of today if put into some sports they will develop physically, mentally and psychologically, rather than engaging themselves in unfair activities. This will further boost them to lead a healthy and disciplined life. The parents should act responsibly in such instance.
There are lots of physical education departments as well as qualified physical education instructors in our state. But sadly, most of them are unemployed, another factor contributing to the poor sports culture is that the handful of physical instructors appointed are rather assigned to do different types of work, including taking proxy classes for any other subject teacher. In another instance a teacher from different background takes up the extra curricular activities who did not even have an idea of proper implementation of physical education. Lack of professionalism is a major discrepancy in the development of sports culture in Assam.
There are lot of technical aspects in sports that one needs to understand, and if those things are taught from the initial period it will garner good performance among the students. For this there are need of academies, physical instructors/ coaches so that the students are rightly guided from the very beginning. I have myself faced a lot of failures due to lack of proper guidance, training and infrastructure. Henceforth the foundation should be strong, to yield a better future.
In an average Indian household education tends to be the highest priority compared to extracurricular activities like sports. What would you say about the need and importance of physical education?
Parents also aspire their children to be successful in life and education is one of the most indispensable part of our life. Often it is considered that sports hamper the studies of the children, to which I totally disagree. Pursuant to this, I would also mention that one who is dedicated to sports is also dedicated towards their studies. It is not that sports hamper one’s studies, rather those who are good at sports are also good at studies. They know how to maintain a balance between sports and studies. Parents should encourage and support their children to adopt both the disciplines equally which in future will make them a good, healthy and a disciplined citizen of the country. Efforts should be made for an all round development of the children.
Any sports person who achieves a position in a particular game is appreciated and bombarded with awards, cash awards, promotions et al. But nobody bothers about the same player during their struggling period. Do you think such support, encouragement, guidance, infrastructure if given at the initial stage, our players can do much better on the national or international platform?
Yes, definitely as I said earlier, I was from village where I did not get any facilities. But the fact is, there are lots of things that an athlete or any player needs to go through. As, for instance “what kind of diet should we have”, “how many hours of practice do we need in a day”, “how to keep ourselves mentally and physically fit to take up any challenges” are some of the small steps which makes a big difference. Moreover, lack of infrastructure is also a major concern. Implementation of these guidance or opportunity will surely build a strong performer who can compete with other sportsperson who have already adopted these technicalities. It is important to improve the sports scenario in the state from the grassroot level, especially the athletes from the villages and nurture their path to reach the zenith.
There has been a void in terms of encouragement or motivation in other sport events which are played in the Olympics, whereas people are much more comprehensive about cricket. Do you think it as a state of concern for which most players under perform?
A person who watches and enjoys a cricket match thoroughly, gives a blank look when we say athletics!
“Athletics is the mother of all games”, if a child does not know how to jump, run, throw or walk, then he cannot even play cricket, football or any other sport. It won’t be wrong if I say all sports are the descendants of athletics. People don’t even know who the players are, but today Hima’s performance has acquainted the whole world of her identity as an athlete. It is generally seen that people are more interested in watching cricket or football and this is where they miss witnessing the spectacular performances of athletes like Hima. Lack of sports spirit may hamper the development of sports culture in the state. Hence, it is high time to educate the people so that they learn the importance of watching various sport events that are played in the Olympics.
What is the need of the hour in the sports arena of Assam to bring out more athletes like Tayabun Nisha and Hima Das?
Our respected Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has encouraged the aspiring talented players of the state to play and do well, and gave assurance that he will provide all the neccessites. We also have a sports department as well as physical instructors who can chalk out plans to develop various sports in the state. Earlier in our time we used to practice a lot of Discus throw but nowadays it is easily available on YouTube from where people can learn from, but the major issue is we need to focus on the rural areas, because there exists a lot of hidden talents who due to lack of guidance, infrastructure and opportunity could not deliver or perform.
The Government has a huge responsibility in this regard. More advanced training should be adopted to compete with players in both national and international level.
Sports like table tennis, basketball, volleyball can be practiced in fields, but in athletics we need a 400m track, no matter we have field in villages but during rainy season it becomes difficult to even walk through them. Firstly, in today’s date in some of the major districts at least a two line 400m track should be constructed. And nowadays there is also provision for playing other sports like football, cricket within the same ground. This will ultimately create a kind of curiosity among the people and they will come and play. Moreover, proper infrastructure, maintenance and mutual efforts from the local people would definitely help to develop the sports culture in Assam.
Secondly, a lot of fund is released in the name of development of sports in the state, but unfortunately the funds are not utilized in the proper place, and its my earnest request to the government to look into the matter so that the funds are utilized properly. Thirdly, the government can take initiatives by providing incentives to those physical educators who bring out a good player under his guidance in any sports. This will further motivate them to work. Lastly, the government can also introduce one or two percent of sports quota for the national/state level players who are doing exceptionally well in their field. That way the guardian will encourage their children to take up sports.