No longer should February make Jaspreet Kaur shiver. Last month, India qualified for the semifinals of the Hockey World League. The star of the show was the 17-year-old drag-flicker, adjudged player of the tournament as the hosts won Round 2 in New Delhi.
It’s a far cry from the double whammy of last February. Back then, India had narrowly failed to make it to the Olym­pics. But worse was in store for Jaspreet, a senior squad regular since early 2010. Forced by societal pressure, Jaspreet’s father, Kirpal Singh issued a diktat — forget about the astro-turf.Faced with the wishes of her family, she was helpless, and ended up missing a Test series and four-nation tournament. "But if you are determined and passionate enough, things tend to fall in place," says the product of the hockey centre in Shahbad.
After six months in the wilderness, Jaspreet returned to the field in September. And it was another woman who stood up for her. “Amid increasing pressure from relatives, we got a marriage proposal for her, which is all the motivation my husband needed to decide to wed her off,” said Baljeet Kaur, Jaspreet’s mother.
Mom up in arms
Seeing her daughter down in the dumps, Baljeet decided to step in. “I tried speaking to him. And when my thoughts were brushed aside, I got Baldev sir (Jaspreet’s coach) to intervene,” said Baljeet. “Somehow, he managed to convince my husband.”
Last week, a procession travelled 10km, from Kharindwan to the Shahbad bus stand, to greet the woman who had made their village — and the nation — proud. Back home, another 10,000-odd joined in to give Jaspreet a rousing reception. It was the moment when Kirpal realised his folly. “Had it not been for Baldev sir’s advice, I would’ve committed a grave blunder,” said the now-proud father, before declaring, “Till the day she wants, my daughter will continue to play hockey. And I will ensure that nothing can stop her from doing so.”
And as far as Jaspreet is concerned, the unpleasant episode was just a “bad dream”.