“MY PARENTS INSPIRED ME TO MAKE A NAME FOR KASHMIR”
Their parents, mostly farmers, might struggle to make ends meet, but that hasn’t stopped them from encouraging their children to follow their dreams, even in the trouble-torn state of Kashmir. Trained by their 29-year-old coach Bilal Ahmad Dar in Tong-Il-Moo-Do, a mixed martial art, six of the 20 young students from the Narkara hamlet in Kashmir’s Budgam district clinched gold medals in the 2016 South Asian championships held recently in Thimphu, Bhutan. Amir Ramzan, 15, won a silver. The accomplishment comes on the heels of an astounding win by Tajamul Islam, an eight-year-old Kashmiri girl from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, at the World Kickboxing championship in Italy.
Mehroosh Manzoor says winning gold in an international competition gave her immense joy and confidence. Her achievement came in the subjunior girls’ category (4548 kg) after winning four matches against Bhutan, Nepal, Maharashtra and Sri Lanka. “My parents are poor,” says the teenager. “They have struggled a lot for me. They always support and inspire me to make a name for my Kashmir at the global stage. And I have finally made them proud.”
Abdul Aziz Dar, 43, is feeling equally proud of his two sons, Umair, 14, and Fazil, 10. Fazil won gold in the subjunior category (2528 kg) after beating rival athletes from Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. “In my first game,” he says, “I initially felt very nervous, but after winning a couple of key points, there was no looking back.”
Father Abdul says, “It is not about the money or gold (medal), it is all about izzat (esteem). Even during the uprising in the Valley last summer, both Fazil and Umair would wake up at 5.30 in the morning for free coaching at their school, Spring Buds, and then go for their TongIlMooDo practice in the afternoon.”
Adil Bashir Dar, who won gold in the senior boys’ category (6467 kg), insists that sports and politics should not be mixed. “For God’s sake, please don’t juxtapose our pictures with stonethrowing youths to score a political point,” says the 21yearold. “If my individual performance in sports is mixed with Kashmir’s political problem, I’d rather leave sports than risk being dubbed as a collaborator or traitor by my friends in Kashmir.”
Zeeshan Dar, who won gold in the junior boys’ category (above 70 kg), says that if you have the support of your parents, there is nothing that you cannot achieve in life.“With my performance in Bhutan I have given my parents something to feel proud about,” he says. “But I want to go to the Olympics and achieve more in other sports.”
NARKARA YOUNGSTERS AT A PRACTICE SESSION