THE MAKE UP SONG!

BOXER SARJUBALA JOINS US TO CEL­E­BRATE IN­DIA’S MEGA HAUL OF MEDALS AT THE ASIAN GAMES AND DRESSES UP TO PARTY IN A UNIQUE, NO MAKE-UP AVATAR. HER MES­SAGE: TRUE BEAUTY IS NEVER JUST SKIN DEEP!

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For some­one built on such tiny lines, 5’ tall boxer Sam­jetsabam Sarjubala Devi cer­tainly packs a punch. Not only when she does her job in the ring – she’s won the na­tional box­ing cham­pi­onship in her cat­e­gory four times, achieved the gold at the AIBA World Youth Box­ing Cham­pi­onships in 2011, the sil­ver at the Women World Box­ing Cham­pi­onship in 2014, and has made it through the Asian Games in Jakarta up to the semi-fi­nals – but also with her large heart and gen­eros­ity of spirit. Be­cause while she may not have come home with a medal this time, many of her team­mates in the In­dian con­tin­gent have, and far from feel­ing sorry for her­self, Sarju is in the mood to cel­e­brate. Af­ter all, when one In­dian wins, all In­di­ans are vic­tors.

This is why we have her here with us, all glammed up for a photo shoot in a look that’s so to­tally out­side her style zone that she’s hes­i­tant to bare her shoul­ders. “I have never worn a dress in my life, leave alone some­thing so fem­i­nine!” the 25-year-old re­veals with a tomboy­ish grin. “I do en­joy dressing up, but I usu­ally stick to jeans, jack­ets and shorts – they are eas­ier to han­dle.”

Yet, here she is, be­ing styled for the cam­era. And when she’s ready to stride out for the shoot, we have to ad­mit some­thing very, very im­por­tant: like Sarju, you only need con­fi­dence and at­ti­tude to be a diva. What you don’t need, again like Sarju in this photo shoot, is even a trace of make-up.

SHE SHALL OVER­COME

Born and brought up in Ma­nipur, Sarju’s jour­ney has been quite

“I LOST ALL IN­TER­EST IN LIFE AF­TER MY SIS­TER SUNIBALA COM­MIT­TED SUI­CIDE…IN FACT, I STARTED SHOW­ING SUI­CI­DAL TEN­DEN­CIES MY­SELF!”

a Bol­ly­wood film, com­plete with ac­tion, drama and tragedy. Though her fam­ily was far from well off, she be­gan box­ing at the age of 13, when a friend asked her to join the academy near their house. With suc­cess­ful Ma­nipuri boxer Mary Kom in mind, Sarju took the plunge. Her in­spi­ra­tion served her well: to­day, Sarju is known as the next Mary Kom!

She’s lost in sad­ness as she tells us about her life. In 2009, her brother Rakesh Singh met with an ac­ci­dent that left him paral­ysed and in a coma for a few years. To meet the med­i­cal ex­penses, her fa­ther had to sell a small piece of land. De­spite this sad­ness, Sarju’s fam­ily in­sisted that she con­tinue her train­ing, and en­sured that she moved to the Sports Au­thor­ity of In­dia (SAI) hos­tel to fo­cus on her game.

And then Sarjubala’s younger sis­ter Sunibala, her per­sonal cheer­leader, com­mit­ted sui­cide. “I lost all in­ter­est in life af­ter los­ing Sunibala… in fact, I was show­ing sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies,” she says in a low voice. “And then my mother showed me Sunibala’s sui­cide note, in which she asked me to prom­ise to be­come a box­ing cham­pion for our fam­ily, our sit­u­a­tion.”

De­ter­mined to ful­fil her sis­ter’s last wish, Sarju re­turned to the SAI hos­tel with the goal to be­come the best boxer she could be. And clearly, she suc­ceeded! There were dis­ap­point­ments too along the way. For in­stance, though she was per­ceived to be a se­ri­ous medal win­ner at the 2016 Olympics, she lost to World No. 1 Nazim Kyza­ibai, and failed to qual­ify. But like all ded­i­cated sports­peo­ple, Sarju takes fail­ure in her stride. She looks back only to learn from her mis­takes. Then she moves on.

MAGIC OF MAKOVER

Mov­ing on means not only ex­am­in­ing and chang­ing her box­ing style, but also reem­pha­sis­ing her mo­ti­va­tion to other peo­ple – and her­self. “I had hoped to get a trial for the Com­mon­wealth Games this year, but that didn’t hap­pen and I was quite de­pressed,” she ex­plains

“I DE­CIDED TO COLOUR MY HAIR GOLD AS A CON­STANT RE­MINDER OF WHAT I WAS AIM­ING FOR AT THE ASIAN GAMES”

“WOMeN ARe the ReAL bAck­bONe Of ANy Set UP AND We MUSt Of­feR theM A Life Of DiG­Nity”

as an ex­am­ple. “So I de­cided to colour my hair gold as a con­stant re­minder of what I was aim­ing for at the Asian Games.”

She loves shop­ping and fash­ion, but as she’d told us ear­lier, Sarju has pre­ferred to stick to a more an­drog­y­nous look than the one she has for this shoot. This ex­plains her hes­i­ta­tion to bare her shoul­ders; now she is also ne­go­ti­at­ing with the stylist over a dress with a long slit. “But I am ex­per­i­ment­ing now,” she grins. “I do buy some dresses too once in a while, though since I spend so much time on the field, my op­por­tu­ni­ties are lim­ited.”

The no make-up look we are aim­ing for to­day has been in­spired by Sarju her­self. “I don’t like cos­met­ics much. I do fo­cus on skin­care though. Thank­fully, I have great skin!” she chuck­les.

GLAM­OROUS AND PROUD

Pre-con­cep­tions and stereo­types bother Sarju. For one thing, she dis­likes how the In­dian me­dia por­trays glam­orous sportswomen as un­pro­fes­sional. “We have a life beyond the game, like ev­ery­one else does beyond their jobs. But peo­ple for­get that. We also want to get out of these uni­forms and dress up to feel good and re­lax,” she says. For an­other thing, she ob­jects to misog­y­nist and re­gional dis­crim­i­na­tion in the world of sports: “While peo­ple from the North East are very sports-ori­ented and women are given equal op­por­tu­ni­ties, dis­crim­i­na­tion does hap­pen at times, and that is some­thing we all need to rise above,” she says firmly.

That is why she has two very se­ri­ous goals in life. The first? She wants to be world cham­pion at her game. The sec­ond? She wants to start an or­gan­i­sa­tion that en­sures em­ploy­ment to all women as well as peo­ple with spe­cial needs. “Women are the real back­bone of any set up and we must of­fer them a life of dig­nity,” says Sarjubala with such an earnest smile that it makes the whole crew’s eyes sparkle.

“I coloured my hair gold as a con­stant re­minder of what I was aim­ing for…” —Ma­nipuri boxer Sarjubala, 25, who rep­re­sented In­dia at the Asian Games in In­done­sia re­cently

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