She Dared: Women in Indian Sports - A book review

'She Dared' is a welcome addition to the collection of work acknowledging the efforts of women in a male-dominated field.

The life stories of Indian superstars such as P. T. Usha, M. C. Mary Kom, Sakshi Malik and P. V. Sindhu are just a few that one will encounter while scrolling through the pages of She Dared: Women in Indian Sports. The book examines the rise of next-gen female athletes while tracing the remarkable legacy created by those in the past. It shows that more often than not, success was achieved by challenging the system, rather than abiding by it.

From breaking stereotypes, overcoming social barriers and economic deprivation, to refusing to take no for an answer, these women dared to dream and carved a place for themselves in the highest echelons of India’s sporting history. They not only triumphed over better-trained athletes, but, more importantly, against a patriarchal society.

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Their success stories, like any other, included hardships — sprinter Dutee Chand was subjected to a humiliating gender test; weightlifter Karnam Malleswari, the first Indian woman on the Olympic podium, was initially refused training by a coach and asked to “focus on the household;” archer Deepika Kumari, an Arjuna awardee, grew up under a thatched hut where meals were hard to come by. But an undying spirit of determination and support from their families and coaches meant these women overcame the several obstacles on their road to greatness.

Authors Abhishek Dubey and Sanjeeb Mukherjea travelled across the country to bring out these valuable stories through a series of conversations. Much of the quotes are also cited from interviews in print, broadcast and online media, along with biographies.

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The book, with its comprehensive list of stories across several sports, does justice to its aim of digging out the defining moments of protagonists who shaped the history of women’s sports in India and helped inspire the following generations.

She Dared is a welcome addition to the collection of work acknowledging the efforts of women in a male-dominated field. The book holds a certain significance, especially at a time when some of these sportswomen will hit the stage in about a year at the coveted Olympic Games.