Women's hockey: How Beauty charted her inspirational rise to the Indian team - Hindustan Times

Women's hockey: How Beauty charted her inspirational rise to the Indian team

By, New Delhi
Nov 17, 2022 06:29 PM IST

It has not been easy but the 19-year-old and her family have persevered through some tough times to find success on the field.

While growing up, Beauty Dungdung would often see her parents go to bed on an empty stomach. For Ambrose and Nilima, it was more important to feed their four children than have supper themselves. “I never felt good but couldn’t help it. The financial situation of my family wasn’t great,” said Beauty.

With hockey in her blood, it was only a matter of time before Beauty picked up the stick(Hockey India)
With hockey in her blood, it was only a matter of time before Beauty picked up the stick(Hockey India)

Ambrose and Nilima didn’t just stop there. Believing in the talent of their children – all of whom played hockey – Ambrose mortgaged his land, borrowed money and left his farm work in Jharkhand to work as a labourer in Maharashtra and Goa to fund the aspirations of his children. Since Nilima is partially paralysed, the siblings tried to help by taking up farm duties on someone else’s land.

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Shakti, Juwel, Sachin and Beauty vowed to make the sacrifices of their parents' count. While the eldest brother played inter-district and Juwel reached the national level, Sachin went a step further by getting selected for the junior national camp, where he still trains.

But it was Beauty who became the first Dungdung to make the giant leap from the small village of Karangaguri-Bajutoli from the tribal district of Simdega to the Indian hockey team. Last week, Hockey India (HI) announced that the 19-year-old will make her debut at the Nations Cup next month as she was named part of the 20-member squad that will travel to Valencia. “It’s a great feeling to be selected for India. My family couldn’t believe it. My mother was crying. It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” said Beauty.

The beginning

With hockey in her blood, it was only a matter of time before Beauty picked up the stick. Her grandparents, parents, aunt and uncle, brothers, sister-in-law – all played hockey till either the district or national level. In addition, it was mandatory to take up the sport in school. “If we didn’t, we were punished and made to walk on our knees from the school gate to our class. I was scared of that," she said.

But despite that Beauty didn't have the luxury of a hockey stick. “My brothers didn’t give me theirs saying I will get hurt. Plus, sticks used to get stolen. I was very young and my family wasn’t sure if I get one, I’d be able to keep it safe,” says Beauty, who plays as a forward.

Her father then decided to make sticks out of bamboo for Beauty, who started playing from the age of five. Soon, her family realised the natural talent the young girl had.

Understanding Beauty’s potential to go the distance, Ambrose decided to mortgage his land and take up a loan to fund his daughter’s career. Beauty was sent to the SS Balika High School in the district headquarters of Simdega which has the only artificial turf in the region. She joined the day boarding centre under coach Pratima Barwa, who also coaches the junior state team and has produced India internationals like Salima Tete and Sangita Kumari.

Joining the centre proved to be the turning point in Beauty’s career. It was in Simdega – the cradle of Jharkhand hockey – that Beauty got exposed to the outer world, honed her skills and grew in confidence, playing for her district and then state, travelling the country. “I learnt what real hockey was in Simdega where I played till 2019. When I joined, I didn't even know how to play properly. Despite that Pratima ma'am took me and trained me, teaching me everything – from the basics to elite level things like positioning etc.," said Beauty.

It was the combined efforts of Pratima, who Beauty refers to as her second mother, and her parents that she got selected in the junior national camp for the first time in 2019. The year got better as within a couple of months she was chosen in the Indian junior women’s team for the Cantor Fitzgerald U-21 International 4 Nations Tournament in Ireland.

“Till then, I didn't even know that aeroplanes exist and that you travel abroad in an airplane. My happiness knew no boundaries when I travelled abroad on a plane, got a kit with my name on it and got to wear the India jersey," says Beauty.

Sheer resilience, hard work and top notch on-field performances ensured Beauty became an integral part of the junior India squad, also travelling to Belarus and Australia later that year. While Covid-19 halted all international tournaments in 2020, Beauty returned in sensational form on the tour of Chile in 2021, also scoring a hat-trick.

In April this year, the striker helped India earn a fourth-place finish at the Junior World Cup in South Africa before being chosen as the vice-captain of the team for the Uniphar U-23 5 Nations Tournament in June. In Ireland, Beauty guided the team to the finals and was also chosen as the Player of the tournament.

Noticing Beauty’s performances at the junior level, India chief coach Janneke Schopman included the Jharkhand native in the senior selection camp where Beauty impressed the team management with her goalscoring as well as playmaking abilities. Eventually last week, Beauty was selected for the December 11-19 Nations Cup in Valencia where she will be making her debut for India.

“I was curious to see how she will do at the international level. She has been training well, has good skills and plays to her strengths. I really enjoy seeing that. So, I felt like throwing her in at the deep end which might be a good way to see if she can perform (at the senior level). She should first enjoy it and then be able to contribute to the team," said Schopman.

After years of relentless struggle, things are slowly beginning to get better in the Dungdung household. Ambrose has returned to working on his field with both his yield and income improving. The household income has increased with one son getting employed with the Army while another getting selected in the junior India camp.

Getting chosen for India was not the only high point for Beauty and her family. The year got sweeter when the 19-year-old got employment with Indian Oil. “Me and my family could not express our happiness when I got the job. Not just me, my parents were also crying. Everyone was happy that I was playing for the country as well as supporting the family. I told my mother, who also named me, that I will get her paralysis treatment done with the money I earn," concluded Beauty.

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    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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