Our Women’s Hockey Team Didn’t ‘Lose’ But Fought To Forge A Path For Others; Let’s Wake Up Now!

Dear Indian women hockey players, this loss is on us, Indians; we didn't care for you as you deserved to be. Time we begin to get out of your way, and extend all our support.

Dear Indian women hockey players, this loss is on us, Indians; we didn’t care for you as you deserved to be. Time we begin to get out of your way, and extend all our support.

It’s not sad.

It’s not sad. 

Stop saying it’s sad. Stop believing it’s sad.

In a movie, you go to the finals after 30 years because you deserve it. It makes for a phenomenal story. But that’s not life.

The match is over but in my heart I am still repeating it so many times, “They deserved to win!”

But reality is different.

Our women hockey players have created history

In reality, the Indian women’s hockey team has already created history by bringing us this spotlight, for the first time ever in Olympics. It’s taken us 40 years to get here.

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40 years for this phenomenal spotlight on the women’s hockey team; on women themselves.

The phenomenal saves and the impossible goals. I don’t know enough about hockey to express how I feel, so I am going to let Deepti Patwardhan speak on my behalf with her piece on BBC, Indian women’s hockey: Sixteen stories of struggle, one tale of triumph. 

For the first time, even people like me, who know nothing about hockey were having conversations around them. I can’t believe that I am even blogging about it because that’s how moved I am.

I am no sports person, and I can easily be categorized ignorant, but when I started watching them, which is only now, this year (yes, I am not proud of that), I see how phenomenal and how wonderful they are.

They fought till the very end. Till the very last second. I was cringing and wincing as the commentary started to change from “Cusp of creating history” to “Oh, this looks difficult.”

And I hated it.

Maybe now they won’t be ignored any more

As a society this is what we do. We hop on and jump on, when someone is riding high, soaring to touch the sky. While, the struggle they go through is always in oblivion.

You are always alone. But when you start reaching out to the sky above, people look at you. Then they gather around. Then the watch. They judge. They discuss. They presume. They wonder whether you will realize your dreams or not.

And then, when you fall they say “Shhhhh missed by a whisker”, “So sad”, “heartbreaking” and then turn around and go do their business.

This is not a defeat; it’s a win, and need to care more

But the difference now is that, every now and then, the people who gathered around to watch you, will not change the channel when hockey is on. From time to time, another child will aspire to play a sport that got neglected. A person like me, will make a deeper commitment to stand by you. You do this, for us all. For women of India, you have changed history and you have claimed a future. You have made a path, written a story with your life.

This is not your defeat.

At the risk of getting judged and scolded, I want to say something too philosophical.

Something that no one will like.

You had to lose because we need to learn to care more.

India didn’t care enough till now. We need to care more about women’s hockey, about women.

As a country, as a people, we need to care more.

It’s what we do from now that matters. It’s not about you, it’s about us.

It’s about Indians. We need to learn to care more and to support you (and each other) from the beginning, not just when you make it on your own.

The story of every woman (probably every man too, but more for a woman).

The dream, and the nurturing of that dream is important

I live in the small city of Vadodara (which is quite famous now) and 7 years ago when I started a theatre group, there was no other independent contemporary theatre initiative besides the performing arts school, and certainly none led by a woman. Definitely none run by a woman who has no theatre background, no family ties and absolutely no money to fund productions.

The first play that we did in 2014, I put all my savings into. From renting a place, to organizing the rehearsals, to facing my self-doubts on whether at all it’s possible, to struggling to manage a huge team of 20 people, to handling my own mood swings, I had to figure it out on my own.

And then, we auditioned for the international festival in Mumbai, but we lost. We didn’t qualify even to perform in Mumbai.

This defeat didn’t fit my idea of a ‘perfect story’

The coordinator of the fest had become a friend by then. I said to her, “but it’s a perfect story of the rise of an unknown group! It fits. We should qualify. We should go to Bombay. We should perform there. We have had a really tough way up here. It’s a perfect story. That’s how it should be. This doesn’t fit. I don’t know what to do with this rejection!”

She had nothing to say, except, “I understand. This is how it is.”

I had no idea how to deal with the defeat that din’t fit the perfect story.

I cried for days. I was cranky, upset, sulky, directionless, because heads up – everything I mentioned above was still a reality – including the fact that boys I knew had laughed at me saying what theatre will you do? It’s impossible. – and they had won, I felt. My defeat had appeared to prove them right.

But our journey took us elsewhere

But one day, we got a call to host the greatest international arts and culture fest in our city and a new energy entered the group. Independently, a few news journals ran stories about our work. Then we started new initiatives and set out new goals. In 2016, Applause Vadodara was mentored on a national program, where only 16 groups from India were sponsored to be trained. In 2018 we performed at an International Arts Festival in Mumbai.

My friends who started Applause with me are professional actors in films, theatre, television, many artists are popular stand up comics, RJs, media professionals, and the co-founder is working on Netflix and Amazon prime web series with leading production houses.

It wasn’t our mission to get selected and go off to Mumbai, in 2014. Our mission was different.

They’ve made their presence felt, at leat now let’s support the Indian women’s hockey

Today I was reminded of how I felt in 2014, crying because the defeat din’t fit in the story that I had planned.

They have already fought (and won) so many battles, they deserved to win the match.

But that’s not life. Life is all about what we do here on.

I am determined to remember them forever in my heart.

They say “no one remembers the one who lost,” but that’s a choice we make. 

I see victory in them.

I see them opening uncharted ways.

I adore them. I admire them. I love them.

Like I said, and hold me ransom for saying it, they had to lose, so that we wake up.

A shout out to the women’s hockey team, raising a toast with my cold cup of tea.

Much love to you, girls. Lead us on.

Image source: YouTube

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About the Author

Apsara Iyengar

Apsara Iyengar Founder Applause Vadodara Having started as a writer-actor, she has a range of work to credit and currently mentors various theatre programs. The group Applause Vadodara encourages an age-no-bar, gender- read more...

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