From across India they came to this big, steamy government-run gym. Before entering the boxing ring, they bowed their heads to the floor, as though entering a temple. A sweet-shop owner’s daughter let loose a right hook. A construction worker’s daughter leaned against the rope, streams of sweat dripping from her face. Bouncing, ducking, like a grasshopper on speed, was a short girl from Calcutta with close-set eyes; she had forsaken her sister’s wedding for a chance to come here and fight. The thud of glove against glove echoed against the cavernous walls.
That atmospheric clip is from a recent New York Times article on women boxers in India.
Boxing is one of several avenues that have opened up to poor Muslim women across a modernizing India, including careers with nonprofit organizations and in teaching. It reflects the changing role of women within their own communities, particularly in the past decade, says Sabiha Hussain, an associate professor who studies women’s issues at Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi.
“They find (boxing) as a way of coming out from conservativeness. They have very limited role — poor Muslim women — in the public sphere. So these women, these boxers, they find a way to come out and this is an outlet for them to fight poverty,” Ms. Hussain says.
And that is from the Wall Street Journal, also recent. The compelling story will come together in With This Ring, a documentary-form narrative by Montreal natives Ameesha Joshi and Anna Sarkissian, with whom I’m currently working on an email interview for India Abroad and Rediff.com.
That story will materialize over the rest of this week and part of the next; in the meantime, here’s their story, in their own words.