On International Women’s Day, Netflix released Ladies First, a documentary on the life and journey of Indian Archer Deepika Kumari. At the age of 12, Deepika left home to find a better future. Within four years, she was the number one archer in the world. We at indianexpress.com caught up with the ace archer who spoke to us about how her life has been from Ranchi to Rio, massive success, heartbreaking failure and untamed passion.
Q. A documentary on your life. What are your thoughts about it?
I am feeling good. I am excited that around one hundred and fifty countries will see my story. The documentary was ready three years back. It talks about my life as an archer for sure, but it also shows many other shades of my life. It is a story of things we want to do and can’t do. Things we do and the struggle surrounding it. It gives a sneak peek into the sports world of our country, and how the government has its own agenda and not necessarily conducive to the sportsmen. We work really hard. We have plans too, but that doesn’t always resonate with the authorities. They don’t work in tandem. They don’t discuss things with us. Most of the times players feel that things are done so half-heartedly from their side.
Q. Have you ever experienced that because you are a girl, you are treated differently in your sport and socially?
No, not in my sport. Sports stands for unity, so I have never felt that I was treated differently while training or performing because I am a girl. Sometimes there are situations that I feel constricted because I am a girl. Things like I cannot do things without informing my elders. I cannot go out late night that’s there because Indians have something for women I guess. They say it is for our safety. At some point, I also think that we need to be safe too. I have had many constraints at home. My parents wouldn’t ever allow me to even step out alone as I am the eldest daughter in my house. I had to help at home a lot. Mummy used to work. She is a nurse. Papa rides his rickshaw all day. And I was so ‘darrpok’ (scared) that I never left my house after it was dark outside. It is still the same for me, but I believe I cannot step out at night because anything can happen to us. It is not safe. Anyway, after joining the academy, we train so much that I don’t get to do other things or go out late.
Q. You are a national archer and have won so many awards. How proud are your parents?
They are very proud of me. As a child, I remember they would constantly compare us to our neighbours’ children and I never liked it. They wanted us to do well, just like them. But now they are so proud. My parents wanted me to do something in a way that my pictures come in the newspapers, and now they get flabbergasted that I have become bigger that they ever expected me to.
Q. There are many biopics made in India, mostly of male sports stars. We have very few biopics made of female sports personalities. Your take?
I am glad that the documentary is made and that people are liking it and getting inspired. But when you talk about biopics made on women sports stars, it is because you believe it or not, the Indian ‘tradition’ comes in the way. Women are still the second gender. The world is changing, the way people think is changing, but it is very slow and it will take a lot of time. Maybe this is also a reason that not many women participate in organised sports, and the ones who do work too hard to prove themselves and they don’t get equal opportunity and exposure. And, for the women sports personalities who really work hard and shine, people don’t celebrate their success.
I am a little sick of the lack of equality. Girl and boy, both are equal kids.
Q. You are a celebrated sports star. Do you still experience social pressure to live life like your elders want you to?
Yes, of course! I am asked to get married all the time. My mother doesn’t really tell that to me, but my dad gets pressured by others in the society and he tells me some times, but other times he doesn’t. We are living in the 21st century. If not now, then when? We are only talking about gender equality, but when will be practise this? Anyway, I have told my papa that he will have to wait till 2020 for me to get married. My mom is not too happy about people asking me to get married.
Q. You have won at the Commonwealth Games. You have participated in Rio Olympics. India has awarded you the Padma Shri too. What are your plans for the future?
I want to participate in the Olympics till 2024. After that, I want to start a sports academy. It is my father’s dream as well as mine. So both of us will start this academy, and ask the government to support us. We will train kids for sports and give them all the right coaching and infrastructure. I want to make people believe that they should never give up on their dreams and work hard.
Directed by Uraaz Bahl and produced by Shaana Levy Bahl, you can watch Ladies First on Netflix.