From gory to glory

Born to Maoist mother, 15-year old Sirisa Kurami is reviving the lost dignity of her family. She is the first from her district — Malkangiri, a Maoist-infested area, to make a cut in the U-18 volleyball team and will be playing a tournament in China this August.

Sirisa Kurami dreams of making it big someday, and she is ready to go all the way to chase her dreams...   -  Tazeen Qureshy

“It is the proudest moment for my mother. She has struggled a lot in life to raise me and my sister. I am happy to see a smile on her face,” says Sirisa Kurami, as she takes a quick few instructions from her coach.

She is basking in glory as she is the first from her district—Malkangiri, a Maoist-prone region, to be selected in the national volleyball team (U-18) and will be participating in a tournament in China this August. The 15-year old is determined to make a mark in the sport, not just because she loves volleyball, but also for her mother.

Sirisa was born in a remote village in Odisha’s Malkangiri district. Her father and mother Cheleema Kurami were once an active part of the Red Rebels and were wanted by Odisha and Andhra Pradesh police in several cases.

Though Cheleema had forgone the Maoist ideology way back in the 1990s, surrendering had not come easy on her. She was arrested at least twice and it was difficult for her to lead a ‘normal’ life, due to the frequent torments from the society.

After the death of her husband, Cheleema, with much difficulty, managed to get a job of a cook at a local school, where she enrolled Sirisa and her younger daughter, with a hope that they will be able to live a dignified life.

"I knew that very instant, she would do well if trained properly,” says Gyanendra Prasad Badoi, District Sports Officer of Malkangiri, who spotted Sirisa’s talent.   -  Tazeen Qureshy

 

In 2013, when Malkangiri district administration decided to spot sports talents from schools and train them professionally, Sirisa was one of the firsts to get selected. “As part of a sports programme, we had gone for tapping talents from schools all over the district. In every school, we would conduct around 12 basic physical tests and select children for proper training. When we went to SSD Government Girls High School in Kalimela, we spotted Sirisa, who was aggressive and had a fast response rate. I knew that very instant, she would do well if trained properly,” says Gyanendra Prasad Badoi, District Sports Officer of Malkangiri, who spotted Sirisa’s talent.

“However, Sirisa’s mother was disapproving of letting her daughter play. She thought it would hamper her studies and future. After a lot of convincing, she finally agreed to send Sirisa for training every Saturday and Sunday.”

Sirisa was initially fatigued by every weekend travel to the sports training centre in the district headquarters. But, she gradually started developing interest in the game and her improvement graph showed a steep rise.

“I was only into studies until I realised even sports players can also have a future. It was then I started training seriously and improved my game,” says Sirisa, who has at least 10 trophies and medals to her credit in different district and state level competitions.

A good performance in the recent junior national volleyball championship camp in Kerala gave Sirisa the necessary break and she was selected in the U-18 team.

“Malkangiri district team has won many championships at the national level, but Sirisa is the first from the district to be selected in the India team. Malkangiri is a Maoist-infested region and her selection has given fresh hope to the youth of the area to focus on development rather than getting attracted to violence,” says Badoi.

For Sirisa, the battle has just begun. “I still want to fulfill my mother’s dream of studying well. So, I will continue playing but pay equal attention to studies. My aim is improve my game and earn accolades for my country and live with respect in the society,” Sirisa says.