Sports

She Dared: A story of women who broke barriers to carver their niche in sports


This is the story of those intrepid women who dared a pervasive patriarchal society and its norms and a complete lack of support from the sporting ecosystem in most cases, to chart their own course and inspire future generations” – is how Abhishek Dubey and Sanjeeb Mukherjea, authors of She Dared, layout their intent at the beginning of the book. This story – or stories – if you may, doesn’t just stay true to the above but also ends up being an inspiration for just sports- and media-persons alike.

She Dared is a selection of the journeys of some of India’s greatest sportswomen over the years. From PT Usha to Deepa Malik, these women came from different parts of the country, different social and economic backgrounds, played different sports but were connected by one common thread. They all Dared.

Whether it was a shy PT Usha from Kerala’s middle-class family going on to become the 1st female sportswoman to be a household name in the country or Anju Bobby George taking the giant leap of Asian to world domination, all the legends in the book dared to break free of the shackles that their ecosystems tried to impose upon them. The results were there for the whole nation to savour. And it is the story of these struggles and dares which make this book a very engaging and satisfying read.

Did you know that the 1st ever Indian woman to stand at the Olympics podium, Karnam Malleswari’s bronze-winning lift in Sydney was not even telecast live on national television back home as they kept running repeat telecasts of the Men’s hockey game vs Australia? Or that Asian Games champion sprinter Santhi Soundararajan had to overcome malnutrition as a child – not too dissimilar to the struggles of Duttee Chand who remains the 3rd Indian woman to ever qualify for the 100m event at the Olympics. Add the discriminations based on caste, sex, identity, politics and culture in the equation and even most aloof readers will start identifying with the stories of these incredible women of Indian sports.

This book is also seminal in breaking through the lacunae that currently exists in broadcast sports journalism and media in general in India as far as non-cricket sports personalities are concerned. Normally, a non-cricketing athlete only makes waves in the media if he/she achieves something quite significant on the world stage or fails miserably while trying to do so. Sometimes stories related to medal-winning athletes living under State neglect do make the rounds inciting numerous TV and Twitter debates. In most cases, that’s the cue to move back to cricket.

She Dared breaks this notion in its own way of focussing on the lives of the athletes involved and what it took from them to reach the dizzying heights which remain a mirage for most women in the country. As many great sports narratives, She Dared is not the story of these athlete’s accomplishments per se, rather focussing on the persons and lives behind them and how they changed the perception of that sport in this medal-starved country.

Ultimately, She Dared is a must-read for sports lovers, athletes (even aspiring ones) and anyone else who is looking for inspiration. Also, it lays down a marker in sports writing in India which should be a benchmark to follow for others who want to make a name for themselves in the field. Last but not the least, She Dared tries and does its best to fill those massive lacunae in sports journalism in the country, which is surrounded on all sides by a single sport.

She Dared: Women in Indian Sports
Written by Abhishek Dubey & Sanjeeb Mukherjea
Price: INR 295

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