Naina Adhikari - The Baazigar
“I was 13 when my uncle took me to the hub of white water Kayaking – Rishikesh. I was hydrophobic at first. Carrying a Kayak that was double my weight & being the only girl in most waters left me direful.
But, none of it mattered once I kayaked my way through the river. I was fervid! Being one of the few girls or trudging down my way wasn’t a problem anymore, rather something I was proud of and that’s when my journey as a Kayaker began. The following year, I was the youngest Indian Competitive Kayaker and the Best Debutant at the Ganga Kayak Festival. With my increased inclination towards the sport, academics got hindered. While Papa was extremely supportive & said that ‘The lessons you learn from the river are way beyond what a classroom can ever teach’; my mother wasn’t convinced. Being the school principal herself, she wasn’t in favor of me skipping school that often.
So, I had to quit Kayaking for 3 years during my boards. On the bright side, Mom got to witness my inexorable passion for the sport & once the exams were done she let me go to have a gap year. During that 1 year I did the only thing that I loved unconditionally, Kayaking! Now I had everything from the time to support. However, the risks involved in the sport were still intact. I was practicing for a competition. But, I missed my line when the Kayak hit a hole. The waves were rapid & pulled me down into the hole. I couldn’t breathe. My teammates were in tears as they thought that I’d not make it out. Fortunately, the waves eased & I made it out! At that moment I thought of giving up on the sport. But, I eventually didn’t.
During my initial days, I’d get a lot of ‘why don’t you go into something more feminine & safe like Kathak. Kayaking mai Kahi chot vot lag gayi toh?’ Indeed, Kayaking isn’t a race against your competitors but a race for your survival. One wrong move can cost you a lifetime. But if a 13-year-old me didn’t fear all of that & didn’t give up back then. How could I now?
So, a few days later I went back to the same spot in the river & made it out without falling off the Kayak. Moreover, haar kar jeetne wale ko hi toh Baazigar kehte hai.”