“Kismat achhi thi, isiliye itna achha college mil gaya, nahin toh mein kaha padh paati.” Ashu, a third-year BA programme student at JMC College, is fully aware of the arduous journey she’s had to undertake. “But apart from luck, had I not played handball or other sports at school, I would have never known about JMC,” said Ashu, who got 80 per cent in her Class XII board examination, and got into the college through sports quota for softball. “At the Vikaspuri centre where I used to play, my seniors were already in college. They filled my admission form for me. I just went for the trials,” she said.
Ashu, who comes from Najafgarh, has three siblings — a sister who is disabled, a brother who dropped out of school after Class IX and now works in a factory, and another sister who is currently in school.
Ashu’s father died of a heart attack when she was 15. Her mother works as a guard at a girls’ hostel in Palam. “I performed very well during trials and the tournaments, so I study free of cost. My mother is a Class XII pass, so she helps me study. In the college, as lectures were delivered in English, I used to face problems, but my friends and teachers supported me,” she said.
While Ashu wants to pursue a career in sports, her mother wants her to do a BEd and become a teacher.
For the time being, she has another aim: “This much I know, I will be able to guide my sister well and make sure she gets to pursue what she is interested in.”
For Ruchi Singh, who graduated from St Stephen’s College this year, the path to sports was very different. Singh, who comes from a Rajput family in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, never thought her father’s wish — that she learn shooting for self defence — would become a ticket to DU.
“In 2005, there was a shooting camp in my village. My father took me there after school. The coach there gave me five shots to hit. It was my first time holding a pistol, though I had seen many at home, locked in cupboards. I hit the five targets; I don’t know how. The coach told me I should practise more. Only after I came home did my dad tell me I had done well,” said Singh.
Later, on the suggestion of the district magistrate, she was trained in Baghpat, and soon, the medals started trickling in — from being the best shooter in UP in 2007 to the becoming a ‘youth Olympian’.
But studies took a back seat, and Singh Singh scored 69 per cent in Class XII. Then came the trials for St Stephen’s in 2012, and Singh stood first. “As I was the only girl child in my family, I studied at a Hindi-medium school in the village. It took me two-three months to adjust here. But my physical education teacher, Sushant Chakravorty, helped me a lot,” she said.
Since she was busy with the sport, Singh had to take improvement papers, which she cleared this year, scoring an aggregate of 60 per cent in the BA programme. “Lectures that I would miss due to my games, teachers would explain to me in Hindi. Coming from a village, I did not know how to use a laptop or do assignments. But my friends and seniors helped me — I had thought Stephen’s would have such an environment,” she said, adding that the college also provided her a scholarship.
Next up, Singh wants to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. “It is my family’s dream, my father’s dream. I hope I can become another Geeta Phogat,” said Singh.