West Bengal has always been the land of powerful female icons since ancient times. They have not just been consorts of great men, but they have always been experts themselves, as rulers, as warriors, as poets, as writers, as athletes. So today, I will tell you the story of one such athlete who has been making us proud, inspiring us with her stories of struggle and victories.
Thirty-year-old Rubia Chatterjee made the Indians proud by grabbing the 4th position in the game of discus at the 5th China Open Athletics Championship held in Beijing this April. With legs affected by polio since the age of two, Rubia has been battling against her health and financial impediments since an early age. The only one to be Differently Abled among three daughters, she is also the only one who has been zealous about athletics since her childhood. For her, disability has never been a nightmare in her dream to become one of the reputed athletes of the world. However, economic conditions arranged hurdles on her way.
In the world of Paralympics where India boasts of Deepa Malik, Devendra Jhajharia, Mariyappan Thangavelu, this girl from Bengal is quite new. One of the neglected sectors of sports, Paralympics in India has always suffered from the lack of media advocacy and financial aid. So, even though she was very much competent, Rubia was completely unaware of the existence of this world of Paralympics. It was only a few years back, in 2011, when she had to renew her Differently Abled card. Realising that she has lost her card, Rubia had to apply for a new one with all her certificates. Her accolades revealing her talent as an athlete (in general category) caught the eyes of Nitai Chakraborty (who runs his own NGO for the Differently Abled) and he immediately approached her. With his guidance, Rubia made her debut in the national games at Bangalore in 2013 winning two Gold and one Bronze medals.
From then on, the journey, with its ups and downs is woven by quite an impressive number of medals. Here’s a sneak-peak:
Year Gold Silver Bronze
2013 2 1
Playing in the F44 category, Rubia specialises in athletics, shotput and discus. In a candid telephonic conversation, she talks about her husband. “He’s my biggest strength,” she gleams. “He takes to nationals and everywhere I need to go.”
When asked about her dreams, she says, “I want to be like Chen Yi Yun, who became the winner in the F44 category representing China in Rio Paralympics 2016.’
Full of dreams and hopes, Rubia is confident. “I wanted to throw like my coach Sipra Ghosh but I broke her record,” she chuckles.
“I want all the women, who are Differently Abled, to discard their fear and shyness and come forward to participate in athletics,” she states. “We have very few women in this sphere.”
Rubia Chatterjee has received the Role Model Award from the Shishu Nari Kalyan Daptar, West Bengal. As we step into the middle of this year, she counts her trophies for this year. She already has two Silvers from the national games held at Jaipur in March in the category of shotput and made India proud by grabbing the 4thposition at the international games in Beijing. A road full of challenges lies in front of her.
We wish all the success in her life and may she keep on making us proud every moment. We are proud of you, Rubia!
Photos sourced by the author.
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Aparajita Dutta is a writer, poet, social activist and a research scholar. She has completed her M.Phil in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University in 2015. She has been the contributing author of Tell Me a Story, published by Penguin India. Aparajita has written for other books, magazines, and websites as well. Her interests are football, gender rights, disability, and translation.