With the entire cricket buzz around, it never happened to be the sort of thing that attracted my attention. Odd? Yes of course.
It is very rare for any Kashmiri since we all have close memories associated with cricket, here in the valley. From the stressing over India Vs Pak matches that make the streets look deserted, as if no life existed, to the young boys playing cricket in congested lanes of the old city, everything gives a sense that cricket circulates in the blood of locals.
At 12 years of age, I would watch the game and bite my nails now and then. The inside of my wardrobe was fully covered with collages of pictures of sports personalities. That was when I was practically able to go out in the field during my leisure time and engage in sporting activities. However, eventually I got confined to playing indoor games and playing outdoors was possible only at school. And all of this happened because I belong to a gender that hardly finds any space to live the game practically.
Earlier, I would accompany my uncle and cousin brother to a nearby playground to play cricket where I would also take part. But one fine day, things changed radically. Once I hit adolescence, I was no longer allowed to play outdoors. Not only did my parents object, but it also extended to people in the ground. Just a few months ago, I would play with these men without anyone whistling or passing indecent remarks. But now, the boys made sure to make me conscious of my gender. Others suddenly found it uncomfortable to play in my presence there.
The day I couldn’t continue playing because I was a girl was when I tore down all the posters and lost my passion for the game. It turned out to be a big disappointment that whether I enjoy the sport, was decided by my gender. This is fairly common for several girls, who are sidelined from sports as they grow up.
A number of women from the valley have participated in sports such as cricket, basketball and volleyball. However, socially, sports is still considered taboo for girls after a certain age. Lack of interest is in hindsight an irrational justification for excluding girls from sports. Although the sports organisers, coaches and trainers try to encourage girls to participate in sports, the lack of access to infrastructure holds them back.
However, things were a little different at college. There were good facilities within the campus, however, it was disappointing that outside college, I could not find adequate facilities to keep my practice going. Once college shut, I could hardly find an appropriate space to keep playing.
While I was not a professional at any particular sport, I enjoyed playing at leisure and was troubled by the lack of an appropriate space to support this. Most men walk to playgrounds at street corners or parks during late evenings and enjoy a game of leisure to relax after an exhausting summer day. But, women always miss a chance to do the same. Men find a chance to get out and play even during hartals, but I could not find an appropriate space to just meet friends and hang out, let alone play a sport!
For various reasons women often find their passage to sports blocked most obvious among them being the lack of access to playgrounds for women. The traditional grip over the society calls for gender segregation at various levels with most obvious being the segregation in sports. On one hand, men and women don’t take part in sports side by side and on the other hand; there are no adequate sports facilities like playgrounds available for women. Although no field has explicitly been designated to men, most of them are taken over by men exclusively. Even if the women attempt to grab the opportunity to benefit from these grounds, the atmosphere is not be very conducive, owing to societal perception and lack of support.
Also, sports requires people to be dressed in a sport-appropriate fashion including shorts. Because of the way society views women in short clothes, it is highly uncomfortable to be present in non supportive surroundings where players are more worried about their clothes than the sport they are playing. It kind of goes against what the clothes are meant to make you feel – comfortable.
One of the most consistent forms of discrimination is in the social role forced upon women throughout the history. This discrimination has also trickled into in sports through their limited participation. Though this has changed greatly, with the participation of women in sports having dramatically changed in last few years, the quest for equalising women’s opportunities in sports in the valley is still short of its goal. With several crucial steps in the direction, not only can participation of women be improved, but there ideal provisions for leisure can also be constituted.
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