The tight and tiresome schedule that comes with being in the police force does not deter Kalyan Police Naik Shobha Desai from finding time and energy to pursue her goals in athletics. Born into a farmer’s family in a small village, Oglewadi in Karad, Desai was introduced to sports at a young age, with the encouragement of her father Shamrao Shivram Mane, a sports enthusiast. “I became an athlete because of my father,” said Desai.
In school, she won several sports competitions. In her village, she would practice by running on the hills and roads due to lack of sports facilities. So far, she has won more than 85 championships, from district level to national and international levels. She has set several records in 21 km and 42 km marathons.
Winning the Standard Chartered half marathon (21.09 km) was one of her goals, which she achieved on 15th January, 2017. Now, breaking her own record is her new goal. Desai joined the police force in 1995, after the late A C P Ashok Kamte, who was killed in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, encouraged her to join the force when he saw her practising.
After delivering her child in 2003 through caesarean section, Desai had to discontinue athletics practice on the advice of doctors. “I felt a lot like running and practicing… I knew I was growing lazy and gaining weight. So, after a long wait of 5 years, I started again,” said Desai. Senior officials in the department extended support to Desai in pursuing her dreams. “The department adjusted job timings so that I had enough time to practice. My seniors let me practice first and then go for duty,” she said.
When Desai faced financial hurdles after getting selected for the Masters Athletics Championship in Singapore last year, Thane C P Param Bir Singh provided her with financial aid. She was financially supported by DCP Dr Sanjay Shinde and KDMC Mayor Rajendra Deolekar, to participate in the Asia Masters Athletic Championship in China.
Desai, who spends most of her time at practice and work, seldom has time to take care of her household, which is taken care of by her mother and siblings. They also take care of her 12-year-old daughter Sanskriti, when she is practising or is on duty.
“The kids of today don’t have proper guidance. The government should bring new schemes focusing on developing sports facilities and encouraging the youth to participate in sports,” said Desai.