Women who inspire us: Nikhat Zareen

This Women's Day, we look at Nikhat Zareen's story who took on her idol Mary Komm in a fight for equal opportunity. She lost the bout but won hearts.

Nikhat Zareen believed that she deserved a fair trial bout against Mary Kom and fought for it. (File photo).   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

From picking up boxing to follow the footsteps of her idol M. C. Mary Kom to trading punches – on and off the ring with her – Nikhat Zareen’s story is one of unflinching self-confidence and perseverance.

Nikhat was only four years old in 2000 when Mary won her first State Boxing Championship.

When Nikhat won gold at the 2019 Junior Nationals and was adjudged the ‘Best Boxer’ of the tournament, Mary was a five-time AIBA Women's World Boxing Championship winner.

When she won the flyweight gold medal at the 2011 Women’s Junior and Youth World Boxing Championships, Mary had returned to the sport – after giving birth to two children – to clinch gold at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games.

And their paths crossed in 2019 when both were competing for a spot on the plane to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

READ: Country proud of both Mary Kom and Nikhat Zareen: Rijiju

Hailing from Nizamabad in Telangana, Nikhat took to boxing at 13 – much to her mother’s disapproval. With her father's support, things gradually started falling into place, beginning with her first medal in 2010, a gold at the national sub-junior meet.

After picking up medals at regular intervals, at national and international level, Nikhat found herself at crossroads in 2019 when she travelled to New Delhi for the Women's World Championships 51kg trials. On arriving, she learned that the trials were called off and Mary had been selected in the weight category.

With Mary allowed to take part in the Asian Olympics Qualifiers despite winning a bronze at the Worlds, Nikhat demanded a fair chance, a trial match against her idol. She took to Twitter, wrote multiple letters to the federations and got her fight.

 

The bout didn't go Nikhat's way as the judges ruled in Mary's favour. Members of the audience and Nikhat's camp cried foul at the judges' decision. Mary yanked her head away when Nikhat initiated a hug soon after the bout.

Does she see Mary in a different light now? No. “I was fighting against the system, not Mary Kom,” she had said.

"We should know where we are lacking and for that I stood up and raised my voice. I lost the bout but I won hearts on that day and I am happy," she said of the entire saga.

This women’s day, we celebrate Nikhat Zareen's feisty nature and her pursuance of equal opportunity.