The word ‘Dadi’ conjures up images of a matronly lady who spends her time cooking and caring for her offspring and their offspring. Not this 80-year-old dadi. ‘Shooter Dadi’, as she is fondly referred to, spends most of her time now training young boys and girls at the shooting range in her village.
“Until the age of 65 I was your regular ‘dadi’. I am illiterate and belong to a typical Jat joint family where women were to stay indoors and do household chores alone. Call it luck or destiny but stepping into the shooting range with my granddaughter Shefali way back in 1998 changed my life around.”
The shooting range was set up by Dr Rajpal Singh, President of the Johri Rifle Club, to encourage more youngsters to take up shooting.
Shefali, Shooter Dadi’s granddaughter, recounts her experience at the range and says, “I remember being so scared at the shooting range. There were only boys there and I never thought that I would be able to take up shooting. I would reluctantly go there every day. Dadi used to accompany me and on one such day when I was unable to load my rifle, she stepped in to help me. That was the beginning of a whole new life for Dadi. I remember cheering Dadi and just by having seen us train she shot the first shot of her life which was a bull’s eye.”
Seeing her shoot, coach Dr. Rajpal was sure that she would go places if she took it up. When asked about how supportive her family was letting her take up shooting, she says, “They were completely against it. No one supported me. I was even afraid to break the news to my family. Dr. Rajpal had assured me that no one from the family would find out and only after that assurance I started practising. My husband neither encouraged nor stopped me. He was just a silent spectator. Today is a different story. Now everyone is happy and encourages me to carry on. Back then I had no support other than my own determination to go on.”
Recounting her first competition experience,
“The first time I entered a competition was with my granddaughter Shefali. I was registered under the veteran category and I remember we both (granddaughter and I) won medals in our respective categories. That was such a memorable moment for me. The next day my photo was in all the local newspapers. I was so scared that my family would see it and so hid the one I found. I didn’t know back then that there are multiple copies of the newspaper that is printed. When my family found out I was given a good dressing down; they stopped me from going to the range and discouraged me all the time. That was when I got even more determined. I started practising at home,” she said with a chuckle.
Shefali says, “Other than the fact that Dadi doesn’t speak English she is very well-versed in how to conduct herself. One of her most endearing qualities is how fast she grasps things. She enjoys meeting people and talking to them.”
“Dadi has, over the course of her travels, learnt many English words. For a competition she was travelling down south and when she was in Chennai she would keep asking, “Bhai, Pani dede.” No one there would understand her and that is when she decided to learn English slowly. She learnt many basic words after that; pani is water, chamach is spoon, nastha is breakfast, and so on. Now she can actually even manage to get her way with foreigners and can hold a conversation with them.” Shefali says that it is this will to learn and go on that keeps her dadi young at heart.
People are always asking dadi what gives her the zeal to go on at 85, and she always replies saying, “Shareer budha hota hai, par man budha nahi hota” (The body gets old, not the mind). Dadi has been such a big inspiration for all the girls in the village; she encourages them by not just her words but by her actions. At 65 she started setting trends and continues to do so in whatever way she can even today.
Shefali ends the interview saying, “Dadi does everything.”