When people think of Geeta Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold at the Commonwealth games and qualify for the Olympics, they invariably picture me to be tough, fiery and intimidating. But those close to me know that off the mat, I am just any other girl who loves to glam up. Contrary to popular opinion, I am a sportsperson who enjoys putting a lot of thought into what she wears. From picking my outfits, pairing them with the right accessories, experimenting with new fashion trends to swooning over pretty pictures of natural diamond jewellery on my social media feed—I do it all. But all of this, didn’t come easy to me. The confident, enthusiastic Geeta you see today is very different from the one who has struggled against the odds for most parts of her life.
Born in Balali village, Haryana, I could never have imagined that wrestling—a male-dominated sport—would shape my future. My father Mahavir Phogat, who was a wrestler himself, was the only one who dared to harbour such an unimaginable dream for me. I suppose, the years he spent at the akhada had prepared him to fight—first for himself and then for his girls. He was the first person to notice the untamed fire that raged within me, to be able to emerge strong as a natural diamond and not crack under pressure and to never back down without a fight.
“My father was the first person to notice the untamed fire that raged within me, to be able to emerge strongly as a natural diamond and not crack under pressure and to never back down without a fight.”
My Father, My Rock
My deep-rooted affection for all things strong—that stand the test of time—started with my father and now reflects in my love for natural diamonds. They bring a glimmer of hope into my life, are a mirror to my own inner strength and are worthy rewards for my grit. As I look back on my teenage days, I see an exasperated young Geeta, groaning under the weight of living up to her father’s expectations, dreading the 4 am practice sessions, and loathing the 4 km walk to school, soon after. My father was the toughest coach I could have had and we were petrified of letting him down, yet I would never wish for a different childhood. All those struggles and pressures helped me grow stronger every day and transform into the resolute woman I am today.
Proving My Mettle
While I was learning to deal with the ridicule for wanting to be a female wrestler, I was also being mocked for wearing my short hair and having a strong build in society. At a young age, such scornful comments can be deeply traumatising, but I knew that I had to ride this storm out. After I won my first gold medal my detractors realised that they couldn’t take me down with brute strength, so they tried with derision and rampant sexist remarks. Who would marry a girl who could fight like me, they laughed. Little did they know that in Pawan, I had met my match. He’s reserved and shy, not one for grand romantic gestures, but he loves me for who I am—fearless, yet grounded.
“I was bowled over when Pawan went on to explain that the natural diamond ring he was proposing me with was metaphor of our undying love for each other, a bond that could face all odds without losing its eternal sparkle”
It didn’t take him long to catch wind of my love for natural diamond jewellery and surprised me with a breath-taking diamond ring when he came home from a foreign tournament. I was bowled over when he went on to explain that it was a metaphor of our undying love for each other, a bond that could face all odds without losing its eternal sparkle. At the cost of catering to cliches, I often think that we are indeed two different people connected by one soul.
Delicate as a Lover, Strong as a Mother
This ring was the ultimate symbol of our love and unwavering partnership, until the birth of my son Arjun. With him, I entered a new phase of life—motherhood—that has completely changed my outlook. A mother is the epitome of love and sacrifice and she will do anything for the best interests of her child. My biggest strength is resilience and after Arjun, it has only amplified. Like a diamond stands the test of time, I’ve learnt after motherhood that a woman is capable of withstanding any physical and emotional hardship.
All the three men in my life, my father, husband and son, have helped me bring out my true potential in their own ways. If my father showed me how competitive and fearless I was, my husband brought out my graceful side—as the woman who loves flaunting her natural diamonds that reflect her dynamic personality. With my son, I identified my unbreakable inner strength as a protector and nurturer. Meanwhile, the Geeta within me, knows who I truly am—the survivor, the fighter and the winner.
Read more from the series here