You don’t have to watch Dangal to feel hugely inspired by the story of the Phogat sisters. Indeed our athletes, our sportswomen make us incredibly proud, not just for the awesome feats they accomplish, but also because of the seemingly insurmountable hurdles they cross to get there. The story of the challenges their father and uncle faced to train them, in a conservative state that’s known more for its horrific child sex ratio, is becoming the stuff of legend…and we can thank Aamir Khan for that.

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But at the end of the day, it is the power of role models that smashes through our stereotypes, that allows to see, to imagine what we can be.

On shoot the other day in Murthal, Haryana, I met a confident 22 year old girl, Bunty, who has won national-level championships for wrestling, she told us. Her father supported her throughout — he himself is a pehalwan, we learned. And while there was family support, of course there were societal challenges. She, meanwhile, was enrolled in a skills training program aiming at employment in plastics engineering, for the most practical reasons — financial independence. She plans to continue wrestling and is confident she’ll get a job that will allow her to support herself and her dreams.

Amrita Breaking it Down banner

Now of course, one could argue that it would be fabulous if she were able to single-mindedly pursue her passion and rise to the top of the game as a wrestler — and the camera crew and I were discussing whether that would indeed be the case in another country, where funds might be easier to come by — but the thing of it, is her choice. Her ability to pursue a path to independence, while lauding her family support of her decision to both wrestle, and to earn a living.

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The sky’s the limit, sometimes.

There are people all around us, battling forces and demons we know nothing of. Sometimes the best part of being a reporter is the sheer joy of hearing stories that are uplifting, despite it all, not to mention the monumental privilege of being allowed to peek into other people’s lives.

Also inspiring this year, was the chance to meet and talk to several women who had survived years of abuse, who were coming through therapy and figuring out ways to deal with the incidents takes tremendous courage — and while we often laud those who are able to fully heal or talk about it and encourage others to do the same, it’s eye-opening and humbling to see what that entails. Often we praise courage and the “coming to terms” and the “closure”, but don’t think about the resilience it takes to survive, to dig deep and keep going day to day. The idea isn’t to put pressure on those fighting their battles, but to understand, and yes, listen with compassion, when these stories are shared.

And while we’re at it, an interesting case is being made for compassion vs empathy. That’s reading to take into the new year!

So if anything can sum up key take-aways in a very challenging year, it’s the fundamental truth that inspiring stories can, and often do change us, sanding off some of the rougher, harder bits, enabling that very compassion that is so necessary in these times.

Feature Image: Bunty in her class at CIPET (SheThePeople.TV)

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