A dusty town around 160km from Delhi on National Highway-10 is reaping the rewards of backing its girls. Hisar could just be another town in Haryana, infamous for its warped sex ratio, but its women have earned it the moniker of the “sports centre of the country”.
The city has the unique distinction of producing around 40 international women wrestlers, judokas and boxers. And the change has not happened overnight. Family support, improved economic conditions and better job prospects have helped in empowering the women here.
The story of National School Games wrestling gold-medallist Poonam Dhanda explains it best. After clearing Class-X with 87.5 per cent marks, Poonam could have easily got admission in Science or Commerce stream. But she chose Arts. Why? She wants to devote more time to wrestling. Her target is an Olympic medal. And her family is supporting her to the hilt. “My daughter wants to win an Olympic medal and I am confident she will not settle for anything less,” says Poonam’s father Ajmer Singh.
But at the outset, Ajmer had reservations. “When we were residing in the village, I was of the opinion that girls were not cut out for sport. But when we shifted to Hisar, saw girls pursuing sport, my mindset changed…I registered Poonam at the local Mahabir Stadium," says Ajmer. Seeing the success of Geetika Jhakhar in wrestling, Poonam was floored by the mat sport. "I want to wrestle like Geetika didi and earn name and fame like her,” says Poonam.
Hisar players, with well-paid jobs in top government departments, have automatically become role models for upcoming sportspersons. The country’s only woman Arjuna Awardee in wrestling, Geetika Jhakhar, is a DSP in Haryana Police. Nirmala, Sunita Sharma (both wrestling), Aruna (judo) and Preeti Beniwal (boxing) have recently been recruited as sub-inspectors. Olympian judoka Arti Kholi is an inspector in CISF.
So much for the power of women in Hisar!