Shahabad, about 170km from Delhi, is a town like any other in Haryana. Parents prefer girls who keep their dupattas firmly in place, come home before dark and marry before they get too opinionated. Yet some girls have managed to trade their modest salwar kameezes for shorts and the rolling-pin for a hockey stick. All courtesy a patch of 91.4m x 55m astro turf at the Shahabad Markanda hockey stadium that has become a nursery for Indian hockey in the last three decades.
Now famous as the stomping ground of current hockey captain Rani Rampal, Shahabad has produced several other national and international-level players, including Rani’s teammates in the Olympic team Navjot Kaur and Navneet Kaur and former India men’s team captain Sandeep Singh.
Rani and her team’s performance this week may just have made the path less arduous for girls like 19-year-old Parashdeep Kaur from Sulakhni village who exudes confidence as she darts from one end of the stadium to the other. “It is my dream to represent India in the Olympics as a drag flicker,” she says. (Drag flick is a scoring technique.) And she’s putting in the hard work. Parashdeep is among the 300 girls and boys who train at the stadium every day come rain, shine or pandemic.
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