As most of the countries in the world are gripped with the fervour of Commonwealth games 2022, it is worth/sharing a relatable story of a woman who hails from a remote village in the Kashmir Valley of India. Mariam was born in the year 1994 when terrorism was at its peak in the valley. She belongs to a very humble family and was naturally inclined towards sports. Her eyes would lighten up whenever she would see or hear about a sportsman, however, just like any other youngster of that era in India, the game of cricket was her favourite. She always told her Ammi that she would one day play cricket for India and make her country proud. She was a bright student with keen academic orientation but at the same time would passionately pursue cricket. Mariam was a well behaved girl and everyone in her small hamlet admired her for her ‘Tehzeeb’ which she had inherited from her parents.
Mariam was 12 years old when she witnessed her first International Cricket Match on the television. She was aghast to learn that the cricket that she played along with her friends on the field was very much different from the cricket that is being played internationally. The rules were different, there were strange pads around the players legs, they wore a helmet and would play with a leather ball. Where on the one side she was amused and excited about international cricket, on the other hand she got worried and anxious as to how she would be able to play her favourite game of cricket, wearing all those strange pads and a helmet. Nevertheless she was still very motivated and insisted to her ‘Abbu’ to admit her to a cricket coaching academy in some big city like New Delhi or Chandigarh. But all that her Abbu could do, was nod his head in affirmation and give a false ray of hope as admitting to such academies would cost a lot of money which they did not have.
But the story of Mariam could not be stopped merely by the financial boundaries that were limiting her passion towards the sports. She kept on practicing cricket with an old leather ball which she could manage somehow from her elder brother and improvised pads made up of sticks and hay which she gathered from her farms.
It was a cursed day for Mariam on the Autumn of 2007 when two cricketing rivalry nations India and Pakistan were facing each other in the finals of a T20 World Cup tournament. Mariam was all excited for the match and went to the Sarpanch‘s house to watch the match and also cheer for her nation India. Mariam was totally immersed into that small television and did not even realise when suddenly a bullet was fired, which caused complete commotion in that small room. A group of terrorists entered the room hastily and commanded authoritatively that everyone must support Pakistan and that no one should be supporting India. They also commanded everyone to leave as watching television is against Islam and everyone must avoid it.
Everyone started running here and there and so did Mariam as it was very important for her to save her life. Mariam, who was running with all her might, suddenly slipped and fell into a ditch and hurt her back. She couldn’t get herself up. Luckily some villagers passing by, helped her out of the ditch and she somehow reached home. That was a fateful day when everything changed for Mariam. She was taken to the hospital and doctors just could not help her, she was diagnosed with a severe injury in her spine which was irreversible and irreparable as it had paralysed her waist down. Young Mariam was shattered, her wistful dreams broken, the monster called depression started seeping in. She cursed the terrorists for her helpless condition.
On one hand her ‘Ammi’ was woeful “Kus kary weyn myin kor seeth Khandar” (who will marry my daughter now”, she moaned with remorse and sorrow. Mariam’s Abbu on the other hand, had different plans for her. Upon seeing the his daughter’s condition, his heart froze and now all he wanted, was to see that infectious smile back on his daughter’s face. He walked up to Mariam and asked her “Jiger, do you want to play cricket and I am not joking I am very serious”. A stratled Mariam started crying, all wet with tears, she fell down from the chair. Abbu lifted her up, embraced her and said “beta so what if Allah has put you in this condition, you can still play cricket and make your country proud”.
Mariam was motionless and blank in her thoughts as she could not understand what her father was trying to convey. She feebly nodded her head in affirmation that she still wants to follow her passion and will play cricket. Mariam was enrolled in a cricket academy from her father’s relief fund that he procurred from the Indian government for Mariam, as she was certified a victim, disabled in a terrorist attack. Mariam started playing cricket along with other children who were also disabled, and then she got to know about Paralympics. It seemed as if Mariam regained her lost hopes. It was rejuvenating, refreshing and above all motivating to be able to play sports even in her condition. Since then, Mariam has worked hard and represented India in various competitions held internationally as part of the Paralympic Cricket. She is the key member of the team and the first girl from Kashmir to represent the country in such an event.
As the saying goes, “whatever happens, happens for good”. Mariam is a recognised athlete from India, and has won many laurels for the country. Mariam, who once had lost all her hopes has now become motivation for many. It is also my sincere request to my readers that please put in some effort and support the Indian team or for that matter anyone who has displayed tremendous courage to rise up from an impairment and take up a sport to represent their country. They are indeed Stars shining bright in National Skies.