Mohammad Gaffar was 17 and Anwari 14 when they tied the knot in 1977. Three years later, they moved to Delhi from their village, Jogbani, in Bihar. From working in an utensils factory to doing odd jobs, Gaffar moved from one part of the city to the other. Slowly, his family grew — first a daughter, then a son, and then eight more children. All they dreamt of was that their children could go to college one day — a luxury they couldn’t afford.
Now 46, Gaffar and Anwari (43) thank the November of 1998, when their daughter Nasreen was born. Nasreen — now 18 and a champion kho kho player — is all set to fulfil her parents’ dream.
But it hasn’t been easy. Even applying to Delhi University meant a long battle against her elder brother, who wanted her to give up the sport.
“But this is what is going to get me a seat at DU. My board results have not been very good, but he doesn’t understand. He has no idea I have applied to the university under sports quota. If he gets to know, he will create a ruckus,” said Nasreen, sitting on the corner of a bed at their one-room rented house at Shakurpur in northwest Delhi. Nasreen, who scored 70 per cent in her Class XII boards, is one of over 12,000 aspirants from across the country hoping to get into DU under the sports quota. The final list of successful candidates under the sports quota will be out on July 15.
Her brother was so opposed to the idea that a few months ago, he tore up her certificates and broke the trophies displayed on a rack.
“We had gone to our village at the time. No one could tell him anything. He wasn’t always like this. When Nasreen was young, he used to drop her to the station so she could go for her matches,” said Anwari, Nasreen’s mother. She is glad she had hidden Nasreen’s certificate from the 3rd Asian Games as well as a few other medals inside a plastic bottle behind a wooden cupboard.
The certificate from the Asian Games is important as it could get her direct admission into DU — the benefit is extended to those who have played international games. If she does not get a direct admission, she will have to appear for a trial, where she will be marked out of 60, and the rest will be for her certificates.
Nasreen has been playing kho kho since she was in Class III and went to a primary school run by the municipal corporation. Till Class V, she used to play inter-zone matches. As she moved to a Government Girls Senior Secondary School at Kohat Enclave in Class VI, she started playing nationals.
Today, she has a gold medal from the 3rd Asian Games held in Indore in April 2015. She proudly flaunts her pictures wearing a blazer with ‘India’ written on it. The family saw her match on DD Sports. They even have a recording of her waving the Indian flag after the win on their mobile phones.
But the going hasn’t always been easy.
“Every time I had to go for a tournament, my mother would lie saying she is sending me to a cousin’s place. Even now I have to be careful when I go for practice. I make sure I come home well before 8 pm — when my brother returns,” said Nasreen, who had given up the sport between 2013 and 2014 because she was tired of fighting. But her teachers, Vimla Rana and Ashwani Sharma, came to her house and convinced her parents to let Nasreen play.
Since then, neither she nor her parents have looked back. Gaffar and Anwari even say they will let her stay in the college hostel if she gets admission. “This will prevent daily fights and trouble at home,” said Gaffar, confident that one day, his daughter will join the Delhi Police. Nasreen has also been hired by the Airports Authority of India to play for them.
“Thanks to my game, from July 1, I will also be earning so I can support my family. Had I not played, I could have never dreamt of studying in DU,” she said, adding that she hopes to get into Daulat Ram College, Syama Prasad Mukherji College or Laxmibai College — all known for their kho kho teams.
Khangba Sharma, 21
Khangba Sharma was in Class VI when his father decided to send him to a boarding school in Bhimavaram, Hyderabad, away from his village in Imphal. Manipur was witnessing frequent strikes and blockades, and Sharma’s father wanted his son to grow up in a safer environment. “I think I was in Class III, and there was a bomb blast at the market. I saw a man lose his leg. It was also the time when we didn’t have enough petrol for the car to drop me to school,” said Sharma.
In Hyderabad, away from the familiarity of home, Sharma discovered the game of basketball. “In Manipur, I just knew football; I hadn’t even seen a basketball court. Initially, in Hyderabad, I kept waiting for the teacher to give me a football to play with. When they didn’t, I stopped attending the sports period. But slowly, my friends taught me about basketball, and today, I am adamant on making it my career,” said Sharma, who has applied to Delhi University under the sports quota.
Having played at the zonal level as well as the university level, he hopes he will secure a seat in one of DU’s 61 colleges. To make sure of this, he came to Delhi a month ago, just so he could fill the forms here. He has been staying with friends at Vijay Nagar near North Campus — and also getting a taste of the DU life.
“In our village, internet connectivity is not good, so I came here. Since I have already dropped a year, I couldn’t take any chance. My Class XII marks aren’t very good,” said Sharma, who scored 77.8% in the science stream.
Last year, Sharma had taken admission in Dhanamanjuri College of Science in Imphal. But with the unrest in the state affecting studies yet again, his parents asked him to go out, and Delhi was his first pick. Sharma said he wants to study Geology in DU and excel at basketball so he can go back and teach the sport to children in his state. “The focus there is largely on football, but basketball also has lot of unexplored opportunities. I want to show that,” he said.
Sharma remembers how he first picked up the sport. Having broken his leg during a football match at school, he was advised bed rest. He would sit near the basketball court, watch his schoolmates play. Then a classmate taught him a few tricks — and he’s been dribbling ever since. “The school got a new coach, he taught me a lot. I became so passionate that I turned to YouTube videos to learn,” Sharma said.