Kashmir has enormous potential in watersports
Bilquis Mir, a great kayaking player, is India’s first truly global watersports star. She is a symbol of resilience and success who made Kashmir and the country proud on the map of the world of watersports. She is the only Indian woman and the first from Jammu and Kashmir to be appointed as a judge at the Asian Games. Besides, she is also the first globally reputed water sports coach from Srinagar and the first Olympic-level women’s kayaking and canoeing player from the Kashmir region. She is also the Director of Watersports, Kashmir. In an exclusive interview with Global Bihari, Mir shares her struggles and success with Rameez Makhdoomi* in Srinagar. Excerpts:
Q. You achieved a lot in kayaking and in India your name is synonymous with water sports. Can you tell us about your achievements?
Bilquis Mir: I was mostly into 500 metres Canoe Sprint, doing it all alone. I have participated in a number of National games with 25 coveted medals to my credit. I have also played the world cup in Hungary and reached the semi-finals, and also been a coach in Asain Games and Judge in Asain Games and Afro-Asian Games.
Q. Your take on kayaking potential in our part of the world?
Bilquis Mir: Kayaking is an Olympics event, that started in 1924 in Canada and became an Olympic sport soon after that. We are holding a rowing championship in Kashmir from 20 to 27 June. This canoe kayaking has 13 events which include a Canoe Sprint of diverse distances, then we have water polo, and then we have Canoe Slalom in wild water. We also have a dragon boat which is quite famous in Kerala.
Q. Why has India as a country not achieved big in water sports on the world stage?
Bilquis Mir: It is true that we have as a country failed to realise our potential in Water Sports to the fullest but with more infrastructure coming up and people taking water sports seriously we will improve by leaps and bounds.
Q. Being a woman, what type of struggles do you have to undergo as a sportsperson?
Bilquis Mir: My sports journey has been full of struggles but a never die spirit. I started my sports career when I was in 5th class, showed my utmost interest and participated in water sports, especially kayaking. The field of water sports is seen as men-dominated and I took this challenge head-on, being a woman. Donning a tracksuit and the structure of this sport is challenging for girls. I started my participation in 1998 in a tournament organized by the Police Department. I stood first but was beaten at home when I went with the trophy and rupees 15000. They too were unaware and thus acted harshly. I believe the struggle of the girl starts from the door of the house. My journey was like that because I was not having direction or any role models. Thus convincing my family became difficult. But I conquered all hurdles to reach the pinnacle in my chosen field.
Q. What is the potential of Kashmir in terms of water sports?
Bilquis Mir: Kashmir is bestowed with tremendous water resources. We are blessed with both flat and wild waters that are suited best for water sports. Kashmir has tremendous potential for water and winter sports. The government is taking many steps to the promotion of water sports.
Q. You are already a legend. What is your biggest desire?
Bilquis Mir: My biggest desire is to see Jammu and Kashmir boys and girls shining for the country in the world of water sports. I am visiting different schools to train our future generations in the world of water sports. Sports as an important subject like English or mathematics. Sports keep youth away from drug addiction.
Q. What is so special about water sports?
Bilquis Mir: Water sports have twofold advantages. One, it is exciting in terms of sports and it also helps to preserve the water body in which it is being conducted.
Q. Who are your favourite sportspersons?
Bilquis Mir: Natasha the Olympic champion and Mary Kom the great boxer of India full of shinning struggle is my inspiration.
Q. Any message that you wish to give to our readers?
Bilquis Mir: I want to give the message that groom your daughters with love and kindness. Teach them to face all difficulties and conquer fears with determination. My message to girls is to remain grounded despite failures.