Her brother scorned and cursed her when others applauded Rani Rana for outwrestling a man.
Neighbours say the 21-year-old exemplifies women’s empowerment as she comes from an orthodox family that demands female members cover their entire body when going out.
Rani has won accolades in the field of wrestling, defeating social barriers and family resistance along the way.
“I have seen discrimination and harassment of women from my childhood. As a kid, I always wanted to empower myself to fight against injustice. When I saw wrestlers take on each other the first time, it made me feel strong,” she said.
Rani’s mother never wanted her to step on the mat. But the young woman found a mentor.
“Four years ago, Rani came to us in Gwalior and said she wanted to be a wrestler. I saw passion in the girl. I met her parents to convince them but her mother felt the sport was not meant for girls,” said Fatima, Rani’s first coach.
The wrestling costume too sparked objections in the family.
“My brothers and other relatives said I was exposing my body,” said Rani. “But I never stopped chasing my dreams even when I was scolded by my relatives. My relatives criticised me even on January 11 when I pinned down a male wrestler within a minute of a bout.”
Rani is now training at Indore’s Sports Authority of India facility with her coach, Ajay Viashnav.
She has won dozens of awards and, a few weeks ago, picked up a bronze medal in the junior national wrestling championship.
“Women should learn the fighting spirit from Rani,” said Ajay. “She has a very bright future.”