Geeta Phogat: The Girl Who Wrestled Taboos

Kolkata: She loves taking selfies. She loves posing for the camera and yes, she loves her coloured tresses just like any girl of her age. But then, there was a time, when she had to sacrifice it all – chocolates, golgappas and even her lovely long tresses for a dream that she and her father had together dreamt of on a sunny after when wrestler Karnam Malleshwari won a bronze at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Meet Geeta Phogat, the wrestler, who has been making to the headlines, too often now.

Yes, you are right, we are talking about Geeta Phogat, the poster girl of Indian wrestling today. And whom the story of Amir Khan starrer Bollywood movie Dangal is based on. Born in a typical Haryanvi family, in a sleepy town called Balali in Bhiwani, that none had heard of till a certain Geeta reached the wrestling mat and won gold for India at the 2010 Commonwealth Game. And the journey of her and ‘papa’ Mahavir Phogat has definitely not been an easy task.

Difficult but not impossible

“It definitely has been a difficult path for my papa as it was he who faced all the ridicule and criticism. We were just kids, who were merely following the dictates of our father, who has been one of our toughest coaches,” recalls Geeta, who is taking part in Pro Wrestling League, going on since January 2, 2017. On being asked if her father was really haani karak as in?

To that she chuckles and says – “Yes, to a certain extent. He didn’t let us go off easily just because we were girls. Even till date, he is very critical of the game we play. We were severely reprimanded each time that we performed badly. In fact we dreaded it.”

Band, baaja and baraat

Geeta, who got married in November reveals that she till date hasn’t been able of enjoy quality time with her husband Pawan Sharma, a wrestler too. “We haven’t been able to enjoy quality time together post marriage. We first had Dangal’s premiere to attend and now we are busy preparing ourselves for the ongoing Pro Wrestlers League. But, once it is over, we plan to go for our much delayed honeymoon.” She adds, “I am having a great time, success, money and now a happy married life. God has been kind.”

Geeta Phogat

So, what now? “Well, there is much to achieve. I have a mission now, you see. And that is Olympics 2020. I had somehow missed out this time. But, now that I have set my goal, I have begun my training.”

Geeta’s Rio regret

But wasn’t she disqualified from Rio Olympic 2016, as she didn’t participate in the repechage bout in Mongolia? “Well, I did so in full knowledge of my coach, as I was trying to save myself for the last chance in Istanbul as I was already of the race in Mongolia. But then I should have at least given a reason. I guess that upset many and hence Sakshi was fielded and she did a great jop. But as for me I am pinning my hopes on Olympics 2020.’’ Geeta feels that age won’t affect her performance if she remains fit and injury free. “Age is just a number. There are many international wrestlers who fight even in their late thirties.”

Geeta, is representing UP Dangal in Pro Wrestling League, a new entrant in this league, this year. On being asked, why not Haryana, she cheekily quips, “May be Haryana didn’t want us. But on a serious note, the owners should be asked why not even one of us has been taken in the team.” By us, she means the Phogat sisters and Sakshi Mallik.

Controversy and more

As we wind the interview, pop goes the question – your coach P R Sondhi, is quite upset with him being shown as the villain in the film, how true is the climax of the film?

To that she quips, “Well, in the film, he wasn’t named. There are so many coaches who trained us back them, he shouldn’t take it personally. It’s a film and many a time filmmakers take certain liberties. But I must clarify, my father wasn’t locked in the room during the finals, in fact he had witnessed me win. But yes, my dad had given us parallel training during the Commonwealth Games and was barred from entering the training area.”

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