By Swarnendu Biswas
Meeting Sonika Kaliraman Malik can be itself an experience. At least for me it was.
It was an experience not only because women wrestlers are still a rarity in India, not only because she towered over me with her tall 6 foot frame and amazingly broad shoulders (here I took solace from the fact that in Zor Ka Jhatka she towered over Shahrukh Khan too), but also perhaps because my preconceived mindset, which still regrettably has some remnants of male chauvinism, couldn’t comprehend that a champion wrestler could also be so ravishingly gorgeous and beautiful.
Yes, I had seen her in television many times in the recent past, in various realty shows like Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi (Season 2), which was hosted by Akshay Kumar, in Zor Ka Jhatka, which was hosted by Shahrukh Khan, and in Big Boss (Season 5), which had Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan as the host.
But the beauty and grace of Sonika in flesh and blood seemed much more enchanting to me, as compared to what was depicted through her televised images. She is one of the greatest wrestlers of post-independence India, but she could also easily seem to be a supermodel or a Bollywood diva.
No wonder, Bollywood star Akshay Kumar was also greatly impressed by Sonika. On seeing Sonika on the sets he said, “Wrestler? You look more like a super model.”
Her super-powered physique, her spellbinding features and her wonderfully built biceps put me in total awe of her. When she shook hands with me, I instantly realised that she could break my weak male hand within seconds, if she choose to.
However, thankfully and mercifully, she chose to put me at ease with her cascade-like laughter, as our conversation progressed…
Initiation to Grappling
As we talked, I learned about the rigorous struggle and grit behind the Sonika’s astounding success story, as the first woman Bharat Kesari and 10 times winner of medals in the National Wrestling Championship, and the winner of several other prestigious national level awards in the arena of wrestling.
All in all, she won a jaw-dropping 16 titles at the national level during 1998-2009. But Sonika’s journey towards fame and success was nothing short of an uphill backbreaking endeavour against several odds.
It can’t be denied that the knack for wrestling and the talent of emerging as a champion in this sport involving great brawn and skills was perhaps ingrained in her genes.
Sonika is the daughter of the late and great wrestler Chandgi Ram (popularly known as Master Chandgi Ram), who won a Gold Medal at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok and was the recipient of the Arjuna Award and Padma Shri.
He represented India at the Munich Olympic Games, in 1972. Across his illustrious career, he was crowned with prestigious titles like Hind Kesari, Bharat Kesari, Bharat Bhim, Rustom-e-Hind, and Maha Bharat Kesari.
Many outside the wrestling fraternity know that Chandgi Ram was a great wrestler turned great coach of wrestling, but not many of them know that he was a great champion towards the cause of women’s wrestling too.
To him goes the credit of setting up an akhara (a sort of wrestling arena and wrestling training centre combined) to train women wrestlers for local, national and eventually, international events. His Herculean efforts had contributed to the increasing acceptance and also to the rising popularity of women’s wrestling among the by and large conservative Indian mindsets.
To read the rest of this 18-page interview with Sonika, please get your free membership to the Naaree™ Academy for Indian Women Achievers by filling out the form below and confirming your subscription.
Powered by Facebook Comments