A dream doesn’t become reality through sorcery; it takes sweat, determination and hard work to get things up and rolling… We have well and truly witnessed several success stories over the years, but this chronical of Shailaja Jain, hailing from Nagpur, Maharashtra, needs our ovation.
The aridity of 8 years was finally put to rest at the Asian Games earlier this year when the Iran Women’s Kabaddi team gave the Indian contingent a reality check in the final at the Garuda Theatre in Indonesia. A narrow 27-24 victory was achieved and to everyone’s surprise, the individual behind this brilliance was their coach Shailaja Jain, an Indian.
Born in Nagpur, a passion for Kabaddi was hereditary in Shailaja’s family, with her mother being a player of the sport. She pursued her career in Kabaddi at national and university levels before eventually getting married in 1980. It wasn’t going to be an easy route for Shailaja, but tremendous support from her in-laws led to her landing her first coaching job, which was in Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra.
From 2008, Shailaja’s record as a coach was keenly observed by the Iran Kabaddi Federation and in 2017, she was roped in as one. Again, switching alliance was a giant leap forward, but Shailaja knew what she had to do.
“Once you decide to take a leap, you shouldn’t think too much. I was not only reluctant but worried about going to Iran. I’m a pure vegetarian Jain. You know how some of us think about Islamic countries, so, of course, I was wary of the dressing laws and how women are treated, and whether I’d be able to get vegetarian food. But many things are misconceptions. There are certain restrictions, but not all of them are bad,” she was quoted by the Indian Express.
With no disrespect, people in India need a slight spark in order to cause a tempest in a teapot and this is exactly what Shailaja faced during the Asian Games. For the first time in 28 years, the Indian Men’s Kabaddi team lost out on gold and during their fixture against Iran, it was Shailaja was on hand in offering a piece of advice. But…
“If they had asked nicely, I might have even helped the Indian men’s team with insights into the Iranian opponents they lost to. But their attitude makes me feel like I am a criminal for coaching outside,” said Shailaja.
Iran was an alien land for Shailaja, but her determination and passion towards the game was enough to bring a revolution in the team. Apart from learning Parsi and bringing her techniques and philosophies to the squad, she also taught her players yoga, pranayama and breathing exercises.
Her contract with the team ended as the Asian Games unfolded and as things stand now, she is looking forward to another adventure for the future.