Published: 20th February 2021
Archer Deepika Kumari: Dreams are not only for the rich. I had a dream
Ace Indian archer Deepika Kumari tells us about how self confidence helped her achieve her dreams despite the poor circumstances she grew up in
In October 2010, Deepika Kumari became a household name, after winning two gold medals in Archery at the Commonwealth Games. She was awarded the Padma Shri and the Arjuna award, India's highest sporting award and was also featured in Forbes 30 under 30.
At the recent TEDxXLRI 2021, Deepika spoke about how she left home to ease the burden on her parents, but ended up finding her calling.
Her father was an auto driver and her mother, a nurse in a government hospital. "Poverty is a situation that can either make you brave or miserable. I was very poor once, we didn't have enough food to eat. But I would dream. Dreams are not meant only for the rich. Anyone can dream. I still dream. And in order to fulfill those dreams, I left home," she said.
For her family, allowing a girl to pursue a sport was a distant dream. Unheard of almost, "Our neighbours used to tell my parents that they shouldn't be sending a girl outside the house. But today, when I go home, they all come and ask my parents why they weren't informed of my arrival. It feels nice to know I've achieved something, that people want to see me, want their children to be like me. But I didn't leave home for that. I left to reduce the burden on my family. I left to fight battles caused due to poverty."
Every sports story started with a dream. Deepika's also had a tinge of hunger to it. "Meanwhile, I heard about a sports academy that gives free food and also provides you with a kit. I thought this was the best opportunity. I was 13 years old. I couldn't do much for my family. So I spoke to them and they were supportive. They dropped me off at the academy. I didn't realise that the goal I set out for had actually chosen me."
And then the journey of discovery began, "I wasn't sure about the path I chose because I was very young and I had no clue. I didn't do it for myself, I did it for my family. When I reached the academy, everything was new for me. I didn't know the language, I didn't know what to do."
Once she got the facilities she needed, her aim became true, "It wasn't the best circumstance, but we were happy with what we had. My dreams kept getting bigger. My performance kept getting better. Sometimes life gives you more than what you can handle, but if you face it, nothing will be impossible."
And by and by the stage got bigger, the target more priceless, "After I became the world champion, when I came back, everyone was really happy. My coach told me to forget that I was the world champion and focus on the next event, the Olympics. I was like, 'Let me just enjoy the moment'. But then I realised he was right. There was no point dwelling in past glory."
At an age when most people are still figuring out what to wear the next day, she made it to the pinnacle and stood at that precipice. The Olympic Games. "I was always ready to move on and try new things. I made it to the Olympics. I was very young, the Olympics was still a fantasy for me. Everything around me felt unreal. But I kept telling myself to focus on what I came to do. I thought I worked hard enough, but when I lost, I realised what I could have done better."
An important lesson then came her way, "We often create comfort zones for ourselves and prefer to stay there because we know it will be difficult outside of it. We only think of what could go wrong. Self-confidence is very important," she explained.
"I was once alone at a tournament, no team and no coach. I made a mistake in my shooting. The thing is, while shooting, you can't breathe or blink. But I was breathing a lot and blinking and I couldn't see the target. I couldn't even call anyone for advice. I was so stressed. I managed to win the second match as well. A lot of times, you will be alone on the road, but you have to keep your eyes on the goal," she added.