“Dadi is in the field,” is how people are directed to Prakasho Tomar, 70, a shooter who first picked up the gun at the age of 60 and went on to win medals in 10-m pistol shooting at the state and national level.
Her other claim to fame is that her daughter Seema Tomar became India’s first woman shotgun shooter to clinch a medal at the ISSF World Cup last year. Dressed in a white shirt and blue skirt (ghagra), this Johri-village resident’s appearance belies her achievements. “I have won 25 medals in various competitions,” says Tomar.
“I went to Tamil Nadu, Bangalore and Chandigarh for shooting competitions, but here in Johri, I’m just another housewife in the village,” she says.
When Tomar first won the veteran’s shooting championship in Chennai and Delhi, men runners-up refused to share the winning podium with her. “We have been shamed by a woman, they said. Many used to pull out of the competition after they came to know Tomar was participating,” says Faruq Pathan, coach at the Rifle Association in Johri, Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh.
The mother of eight started shooting in 2000 along with her older sister-in-law, Chandro Tomar, 75, after their daughters inspired them to join the Johri Rifle Association range.
Convincing her family she wanted to shoot at 60 was far from easy. “They thought we’d neglect the house and the guns would turn into thugs.”
But with the Tomar women refused to take no for an answer. “We hid behind walls and cars to practice because people would laugh and make disparaging remarks, asking me if I was getting ready for war. In a way, I was,” says Tomar.
Her only regret is that she left it too late. “We should have started younger, now our eyes and our hands have lost their power,” says Tomar, but her whole stance changes as she picks up her R85,000 pistol.
But once the medals started coming, the attitude of the villagers changed.