Rugby in India

For India’s women’s rugby team, an Asian Games snub is more than just the loss of game time

Participation at the Asian Games has resulted in loss of jobs for some of the women.

The Indian rugby team will not be heading to the Asian Games, their biggest tournament in four years according to members of the team and officials of Rugby India.

Namita Bhoj, captain of the Delhi Hurricanes and member of the Indian rugby team, laments that she was unable to take a job up due to her commitment to the Asian Games preparatory camp which was held in Kolkata.

“I was supposed to start a job, as a physical education teacher. But I didn’t take it up because we were at the camp. I wanted to play at the Asian Games but we were culled at the last moment,” says Bhoj.

Bhoj isn’t the only one who feels so, Delhi-based Priya Bansal, another member of the women’s rugby team agrees with her team-mate. “You can’t work in the private sector and take two to three months off at the same time.”

For the women, rugby is also a difficult discipline to get a sports-quota job. Bhoj says that while it is easier to get a job while playing cricket or kabaddi, ‘tier-II sport’ rugby players don’t earn enough points to meet the criteria. In such a case, an Asian Games medal would be an invaluable asset.

Indian rugby has been here before. Both the men’s and women’s team finished as quarter-finalists in 2010, but were not allowed to travel to Incheon in 2014. This time around, the women’s team were ranked ninth, but did not fit into a criteria stating that teams had to be ranked eighth or higher to be sent for the Asian Games.

Gathering players from the senior nationals, Nasser Hussain, former captain and manager at Rugby India had put together a selection trials at Punjab University before selecting 25 for the Kolkata camp.

“It’s really disappointing,” says Hussain, who says he received a verbal approval before going ahead with the camp. “At a time when the local game is expanding, we are reaching out to more and more women, we are getting results, this is a huge blow for us.”

On the sidelines of the World Cup Trophy tour that made a stop in New Delhi, Brett Gasper, CEO of World Rugby stated that he understood how the team must feel, “A few years ago, South Africa were not allowed to go for a major tournament because our team didn’t finish top six in the Super Series. It must be disappointing but we have to stand by the decision.”

India finished second at the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Trophy in Vientiane, Laos. The second tier of Asia’s premier rugby series of women had seen the Indian women make their mark on the continental stage. With the pull-out of two teams from division one, India were invited to take part but had to pull out due to a lack of funds, especially in travel, says Hussain.

A member of the Indian Olympic Association, who did not wish to be named, stated that it was upto the sports ministry to change the criteria. “We are just following the criteria that was laid out by the sports ministry in their 2015 order. It can’t be an uniform criterion – some are growing sports, those will have to be exempted.”

Neha Pardeshi, captain of the women’s team, had earlier started a petition on change.org, asking for signatures to send the squad to the contingent. The petition read, “Indian sport’s administration is full of interpersonal ego-flexing and point-scoring in between a large cast of self-imagined alpha males. The Asian Games clearances have become a power play between Batra and any current adversaries he may want to take on – whether it is Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore or All India Football Federation boss Praful Patel. The rugby folk and the women’s team became merely collateral.”

The fascination with the sport that started with the sevens format has spread to other formats as well. The Rugby 15s team participated at their first ever international rugby fifteens tournament, the Asia Rugby Women’s Championship held in Singapore in June.

The team played against the teams from Singapore and Philippines in the tournament in a format that is played by few teams across Asia. Rugby India also held their first-ever Inter-Zonal tournament in April.

The conundrum surrounding the Asian Games selection has potentially robbed the Indian women of their moment in the sun in Jakarta and Palembang.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.