Dalit woman wrestler chases Olympic dream

Kolkata: Breaking caste barriers have been an uphill struggle in India but Asian bronze medal winner wrestler, Jyoti, a Dalit, has braved societal humiliation to rise in the sport and is now seeking Olympic glory.

Daughter of a bank `peon` in a family of five sisters and one brother in the old Delhi area, Jyoti`s struggle began much before she stepped into the `akhada`, something that has continued even after she won the senior Asian medal.

"We used to buy our text books after my father got a bonus," Jyoti, who now holds a Masters degree in Physical Education besides being a 72kg category wrestler, stated.

"Nothing has changed. No media nobody has highlighted my achievement. I`m still struggling without a sponsor. But it`s not the time to give up."

She got a constable job in Delhi Police but that too on basis of her merit, Jyoti pointed out.

"It takes a lot for a wrestler to remain in shape and prepare for an event. The Rs 19,000 salary that I get is very little," she added.

Two years after making her debut in the ring on the insistence of her father Bholaram `Pahalwan`, also a wrestler, Jyoti first came to limelight bagging a silver medal in the 2004 Junior Asian Wrestling Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

It was her first ever international meet and Jyoti made her mind to make wrestling as her career. She had to listen to rude and lewd remarks but Jyoti did not look back.

"People of higher strata would say `you would fight against a Dalit`... And as there were not many women in wrestling people would ask whether I too fight wearing a Jangia (underwear)." It was at the Senior Asian Championship in the capital in April that Jyoti dazzled with a bronze after star grappler Geeta Phogat, first woman Olympian in wrestling, made a first round exit.

With two big events -- the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games -- lined up next year, Jyoti is determined to make it count before the Rio Olympics in 2016.

"Ab toh bas chamkake dikhana hai (Time to go for the kill next year). I`m determined not to get married till I get an Olympic medal or an Arjuna Award," the 26-year-old added.