A Kicking Champ

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It was like a rollercoaster ride for this 8-year-old Bandipora girl when she won world title in kickboxing. Zubair Sofi spends a day with little champ Tajamul Islam after her arrival from Italy.

Tajamul Islam.

Tajamul Islam.

Behind every success story there is a long trial of events, often filled with hard work and heartbreaks. Same stands true for eight-year-old Tajamul Islam, who was recently crowned as Kickboxing World Champion at an event in Italy. Just two weeks back, Tajamul, who lived a modest, non-descript life in Muslimabad village of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Now, she is household name; at least in Kashmir.

“When she got selected for Italy, I had no money. Her dream almost dashed before it could become reality,” said Tajamul’s father Ghulam Mohammad Lone, 33, a driver by profession.

Tajamul, who studies at Army’s Goodwill School in Bandipora – a chain of schools started by the army under Sadhbavna mission, aimed to “win hearts and minds of Kashmiris” – was lucky as RR 14 agreed to fund her trip. “They gave her Rs 2 lakh,” said Lone.

But, that was just the beginning of her journey – a rollercoaster one, as she recalls it now.

In mid-October (2016), Tajamul and her father travelled to Delhi for pre-championship training. “After travelling for 19 hours at a stretch we were finally in Delhi,” recalls Lone. “But as luck had it, we couldn’t find a single accommodation to stay for the night.”

At around mid-night, the father-daughter duo finally knocked at BanglaSahab Gurdurwara’s door for a night stay. “That too was occupied,” recalls Lone.

The only place available was a long and dusty corridor. “I held my daughter close to my chest and slept on the floor,” recalls Lone with a smile now.

Next morning they arrived at the training center. “I was trained in Delhi for twenty days,” said Tajamul.

The champ with family.

The champ with family.

On November 8, 2016, Tajamul left for Italy, from New Delhi’s international airport accompanied by her father and a few member of kick boxing federation.

“Come back with a gold medal,” Tajamul recalls her father saying before departure. “I had never traveled by air before. When I finally stepped inside the plane, I could listen to my heartbeat. It was pounding literally,” recalls Tajamul.

Once in Italy, Tajamul experienced a new world.

“It was like living a dream. People dressed like I had seen in movies,” Tajamul recalls. “I was very happy to be in new country. Everything was new for me, especially food. Breakfast was really tasty and luxurious, but they used to serve raw food for lunch and dinner, something strange for a rice eater.”

Tajamul won six fights to reach the final of five-day long World Championship organized by World Kick Boxing federation.

Tajamul’s final fight was against an American opponent.  “She was really quick and punched faster than I expected. With the help of a Kashmiri punch I managed to bag seven points in last fifteen seconds,” said Tajamul gleefully. “This helped me bag the title.”

All alone in a foreign land, Tajamul missed her family while receiving gold medal. “I was informed by an official over phone that Tajamul has won a gold medal. I couldn’t control my emotions and cried with joy,” recalls Lone.

Instantly, Lone was reminded of the day when five-year-old Tajamul came to him with a form in her hand. She wanted to join a local club to learn kickboxing. “I refused to sign the form thinking that she might hurt herself,” said Lone.

After her victory, Lone waited for Tajamul outside New Delhi’s airport, along with a few members of the federation to welcome his “little champion”. “In Delhi Chief of Army staff facilitated her,” said Lone proudly.

Tajamul celebrating her win with her school mates.

Tajamul celebrating her win with her school mates.

Back home in Bandipora it was celebrations time for entire neighbourhood. Thousands of people were waiting to welcome her with garlands and sweets. They showered flowers and chanted slogans for Tajamul.

Tajamul enjoyed every moment of it and joined the celebrations, danced with her siblings and her father. “I got fascinated by kickboxing by watching my elder sister Raziya undergo training at a local Wu-Shu centre in Budgam,” said Tajamul. “I was both nervous and excited when I first stepped inside the stadium.”

Tajamul’s coach recalls her as an eager child who wanted to learn everything in no time. Within two years of learning kickboxing Tajamul was able to win two gold medals: one each at Dehradun and New Delhi. Both were national level championship. “These wins helped me get recognised by the selectors for Italy,” said Tajamul.

Tajamul’s younger sister Sabia Islam, a state level Carom champion, recalls how her sister would use every single pillow in house to practice punching.

Days after her return, a grand welcome party was organized by Army Goodwill School, Bandipora, for Tajamul. “I am very happy to have such a talented child in my school,” said Shabnum Kausar, principal Army Goodwill School, Bandipora.

With World Champion title already in her kitty, Tajamul now eyes a gold medal in Olympics. “After I turn eighteen I will fulfill this dream too,” said Tajamul.

1 Comment

  1. A much awaited releief after reading so many sad stories.
    I wish this lil champ a bright future and prayers and gratitude to the family for their patience and struggle.

    Dear kashmir life team.
    I was going through some amazing articles on your website and some saddening biographies.these changes a mans outlook towards life.
    Such intellectual stuff is a rarity in Indian muslims. The guys on your team are the stuff our community needs now.
    Extremely wonderful journalism.

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