With the entire cricket buzz around, it never happened to be the sort of thing that attracted my attention. Odd? Yes of course. Very rare for any Kashmiri. We all have close memories associated with cricket here in the valley. From the stressing over India Vs Pak matches that make the streets look deserted as if no life exists here to the young boys playing cricket in congested lanes of the old city, everything gives a sense that cricket circulates in blood of locals.
At 12 I would sit and watch the game and would also bite my nails every now and then. The inside of my wardrobe was fully covered with collages of pictures of sports personalities. That was when I was practically able to go out in the field during my leisure time and engage in sports related activities. However eventually I got confined to playing indoor games and playing an outdoors meant only at school. And all of this happened because I belong to a gender that hardly finds any space to live up the game practically.
Before this time I would accompany my uncle and cousin brother to a nearby playfield to play cricket and I would also participate. But one fine day the things changed radically. Once I hit the adolescence, I was no longer allowed to go the field. Not only did my parents obstruct but it was also the people out there in the field. Months back I would play with these men without anyone whistling and passing indecent remarks. But now there was an effort made by the males in the field to make me conscious of my sexuality. Others suddenly found it uncomfortable to play in my presence there.
The day it became something that I couldn’t continue because of me being a girl was when I tore down all the posters and lost the passion for the game. It turned out to be a big disappointment when whether or not I enjoy a game had to be decided by my gender. Such narrative is valid for many other girls who come to be sidelined from sports as they grow up.
A number of women from the valley have participated in sports such as cricket, basketball and volleyball but a number of games, markedly after a certain age limit, are still considered to be inconsistent with the social view of women. Lack of interest is in hindsight an irrational justification for excluding girls from sports. Although the sports organizers, coaches, school and college physical educationists always try and forge an optimistic path towards participation of girls in sports, the lack of complimentary infrastructure is what holds them back.
Things were a bit different at college. They always provided proper sporting facilities but at the same time it became more disappointing to take in when outside college when I failed to find adequate facilities available in the state at large to keep my practice going. Once college shut, I could hardly find appropriate space to keep on playing. Not that I am associated with a particular game but for the purpose of leisure I always found a huge lag in the space where I could go and spend time. While most of the men stroll down lanes to playfields and parks in late evenings and play light games for refreshment after exhausting summer days, women miss out any such opportunities. I walk past one or more groups of males of all ages playing cricket on streets….they go out to play even during hartals. I, on the other hand, let alone playing on streets, cannot find any amicable space to hang out with my group.
For various reasons women often find their passage to sports blocked most obvious among them being the lack of playfields exclusive for women. The traditional grip over the society calls for gender segregation at various levels with most obvious being the segregation in sports. On one hand, men and women don’t take part in sports side by side on the other hand; there are no adequate sports facilities like playfields available for women. Although no field has explicitly been designated to men, most of them are taken over by men as their exclusive playfields. Even if the women attempt to grab the opportunity to benefit from these fields, the atmosphere would not be very conducive, both in terms of her their own comfort levels as well as in terms of societal perception.
Even if women moved into playfields with boys, there are certain specific apparels that any sport demands to fit particular needs. However, the kind of apparels that a particular game demanded and the kind of apparel that would generally be acceptable in a traditionalist society controvert. By and large, women would not be at easy playing dressed in these apparels in presence of male counterparts.
One of the most consistent forms of discrimination is in the social role forced upon women throughout the history. This discrimination has as well been reflected in sports through their limited participation.. Though the sporting world changed greatly and the participation of women in sports has dramatically changed in last few years, the quest for equalizing women’s opportunities in sports in the valley is still short of its goal. With several crucial steps in the direction, not only the participation of women can be improved but also an ideal provision for leisure can be constituted.