Young women in India are usually known as somebody’s sister, daughter, wife or mother. For the first time, they are gaining independence by setting their own goals, living independently, and taking the world by storm.
Yes, some have short hair. And yes, they show their legs and wear athletic gear–something which most Indians would frown upon. As one woman that we interviewed put it, wearing shorts amounts to “degrading women.”
Their parents are concerned. At least, they are at the beginning. With bruises or scars on their face or hands, they worry that their daughters will never marry. The importance of holy matrimony cannot be underestimated in India. It’s the most important day of your life.
Then, the boxers start winning. In the case of four-time world champion Mary Kom, her parents only found out she was a fighter when they saw her picture in the newspaper. Her father wasn’t pleased. Mary is now the most successful amateur boxer (male or female) in history and supports her husband and two children financially. Her family came around.
Boxing isn’t all about glory or world championships. Many of these women are boxing to get out of poverty. Successful athletes are often rewarded with government in the railway or police force, complete with pensions and benefits. It’s almost like hitting the jackpot.
All this doesn’t come easy. The Indian women’s national boxing team, composed of about 40 boxers, trains year-round. Whether it’s 50 degrees or 5 degrees, they wake up at dawn and start working. They generally train two to three times a day, six days a week, for up to 2 hours at a time.
Some of the boxers are also in school at the same time. Their schedule goes something like this: train, eat breakfast, school, train, eat lunch, school, dinner, train, sleep. It’s non-stop.