Published: 12th May 2020
With no money, this national Silambam champion has been stranded hundreds of kilometres away from home due to lockdown
P Kaushalya, a Master's in Physical Education student in Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore won the gold medal in the National Silambam Championship 2019
An eight-hour-long bus journey later, P Kaushalya reached Ramanathapuram from Coimbatore on March 21. A silambam artist who bagged the gold medal in the 2019 National Silambam Championship, she was all set to train a friend who wanted to pursue the martial art and board a bus back on March 31. Little did she know that the lockdown will topple all her plans.
Kaushalya has now been stuck in her friend's house in Ramanathapuram, for more than 50 days now. "I am looking for a way to go back to Coimbatore. I do not know when I can go back or practice again. I could not even train my friend. All the grounds were closed as soon as I got here," says Kaushalya, who is pursuing her Master's in Physical Education from Bharathiyar University, Coimbatore. "My classes will start only in September, but I used to do a lot of odd jobs to support myself. Apart from that, Silambam requires regular practice. I have no way to ensure that I am fit right now," she says.
In 2016, a 17-year-old Kaushalya boarded a ship all alone from her home in Port Blair, to Chennai, alone. She tells us how she ran away from home, with just Rs 8,000 in hand and a dream of studying. "My parents did not let me study after class XII, owing to our financial liabilities. But I was adamant that I wanted to study. So, with some money that I had saved working part-time, I took a ship to Chennai," she says. The next stop was Coimbatore, where her cousin lived. "I used to play Kabaddi for Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I also had an excellent track record in sports. So, I enrolled myself in CMS College, Coimbatore under for a BSc in Physical Education, under the sports quota," she says.
Kaushalya tells us that during the first two years of college, she did not participate in any sporting event. "I had to fund my studies and take care of my life. I used to live in a hostel in an unknown city. There's almost no job that I have not done. I worked as a babysitter, caretaker, tuition teacher, swimming coach and even as a security guard at night," she says.
It was only during the last year that she was introduced to Silambam, a 3,000-year-old Indian martial art. "I immediately picked up the art and even attended its coaching regularly. I ended up winning contests, including the National Silambam Championship last year," she says.
This lockdown has truly hit her hard. "I am safe in my friend's house, but I do not want to trouble them anymore. I have no money. I do not know how to survive after the lockdown ends," she says, poignantly.