As many people in Goa are debating and discussing who is going to win the FIFA World Cup , Hima Das took athletics in India to a height the sport has never been to and opened the eyes of athletics all over that this country has the potential – if the right people are cared for at the right time.
Hima Das has created an unique Indian record at the World Athletics Championship in Helsinki ; a record that should actually dwarf what is happening at the FIFA World Cup. She is the first Indian track athlete to win a gold at the IAAF U-20 World Championship and her story at this stage is one of a girl from a village placing the map of her country at the centre stage.
Hima’s story is a fairy tale story. A young girl from a quaint village in Assam is spotted by a coach and called for further training in the city. The girl, the eldest daughter of her farmer father takes the invitation and thereby started the sojourn of a world champion.
“I am very happy to win the gold in the World Junior championships. I want to thank all the Indians back home and also those, who were here cheering me. It was very encouraging to have this kind of support,” are her simple first words after winning the race.
“Hungama ho gaya hai (It has been a sensation)… She has made the country proud,” her father Ranjit, a farmer in the small Kandulmari village in Nagaon district of Assam, told .the media after his daughters triumph.
“I always believed she would win it. She called me from Finland last night informing me of her victory,” the proud father said .
“She would run, play football, even Kabaddi. She also loved to work in the farm and drive around in the tractor,” Hima’s aunt Parvati Bharati said.
Hima went to the public high school in Dhing and then to the Dhing College but had to drop out because of her training schedule.
“She has visited us only twice in the last two years,” said her father. This shows hard work and how well it pays.
Her coach Nipun Das said he met Hima in 2016 when she came to Guwahati to attend a camp organised by the state government. He said he pushed her to come to the state capital to train.
“I recognised that she is a great athlete the first time I met her … There has been no looking back since,” Nipun said. Scouting is the essence of any sport.
Hima’s story is a story of the talent that lays hidden in India and the story of a good spotter- her coach Nipun. Her story is also one that shows how misplaced are our priorities in sports in India.
Many times or most times, the focus is on the affluent and in cities and not in villages. Emphasis is laid on bringing the best to the city but the best not always make it. The spaces is occupied by those who have and have not’s are relegated to the sidelines.
When Hima left for the World Championship there was not a mention of her or her capabilities. It looked like a routine affair – where the government would spend and the athletes and the officials would be back after a nice jaunt.
Team India is still not back but by the time they are, India will be full of stories of how the lesser privileged, if treated with respect, can open the eyes of the world with respect for India.
Hima and her coach Nipun are scripting a story about how the best talent is lying submerged in India and that it does not need much digging but just a change of mind set for India to take centre stage .
India is abundantly blessed with athletes. Sports in India do not need the ‘Make in India’ tag because there are hundreds of Hima all over country and with her many more coaches. It is just that the good is, many times, deliberately not recognised.
As long as this attitude prevails, we will have to wait for years for another Hima to erupt or for another Nipun to be acknowledged. Hima is the hero India has been waiting for. And, there are many such heroes all over.