Amrita Maan slips into nostalgia mode at the mere mention of ‘sacrifice’: raising a child as a single parent in a tiny government quarter in South-West Delhi, waking up early in the morning to drop her daughter Tulika to school on a bike, and then riding roughly 20km to a police station in Rajouri Garden, the bustling West Delhi neighbourhood, where she was posted.
The endless hours Tulika spent in a room at the police station after school because no one was there at home to look after her later admitting her to a judo club so she could spend a couple of hours every day not surrounded by cops or criminals and taking multiple personal loans and drying up the savings to support her career in a sport that was, in the beginning, just a ‘time-pass activity.
“You can’t gain anything without sacrifice,” Amrita, an assistant sub-inspector with Delhi Police, says. “And I am a single parent, so I had to go through a high level of it.”
On Wednesday, “Tulika’s mischief, temper, the loans… everything,” she says, laughing – felt ‘worth it. The 23-year-old finished on the podium at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, becoming only the second Indian judoka after Shushila Devi Likmabam to win a silver at the Games
After breezing through her early rounds without much trouble, Tulika lost to Scotland’s Sarah Adlington in the gold medal bout of the +78kg category. Adlington, who weighed 16kg more than the Indian at 110kg, made the most of her advantage by creating most of the scoring chances. Like boxing, in judo, too, it counts if the fighter is seen to be attacking. Tulika, who tried to counterattack, was handed a couple of warnings – called ‘shido’ in judo – before she lost by ippon, judo’s equivalent of a pin in wrestling.
Tulika silver assumes significance because, just a few months ago, she contemplated quitting the sport. Despite being a two-time Commonwealth Championship gold medallist, the 23-year-old did not feature in the initial squad named by the Judo Federation of India (JFI), which a Committee of Administrators runs.
No clear-cut explanation was given for her exclusion by the technical committee responsible for selecting the team. In an email to the JFI president, Tulika had called the decision ‘unfortunate’.