A 17-year-old boxer, Rehnuma Mikrani, is kicking all odds one punch at a time to teach yoga to about 40 women of her community in Haldwani town of Nainital district.
Hailing from a humble family background, Rehnuma is the daughter of an autorickshaw driving father and a mother who works at a local Anganwadi centre. A state-level boxer, Rehnuma decided to teach yoga and other exercises to the women in her community about one and a half month ago during the lockdown.
She began by teaching yoga to four women and now has a batch of around forty women of her community who come together every morning in the local playground.
However, the initiative was not an easy one to start as she and the other women had to face all sorts of odds including criticism from some members of the community and lewd comments from local boys.
Rehnuma, who has been training at Sports Authority of India’s day-boarding extension centre for boxing in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, said, “It all started in July when my mother and few other women asked me to teach them yoga and other exercises as being a sportsperson, I was trained in such things.”
“I was at home during the lockdown but I tried to continue my regular workout at a nearby sports ground. There, I saw a few Muslim women doing some basic exercises near their houses but not in a proper way. I discussed it with my mother who then said asked me to teach it to teach them since I am trained in it. I agreed and then five of us, my mother, three other women and I, started practising in the playground where I used to go,” said Rehnuma.
The small group then started gathering early at 5.30 am to practise yoga and other exercises till 7-7.30 am.
Rehnuma said that it was not at all an easy for them initially as “men would stop on their way just to stare at them”.
“Not only they would stop to see what we are doing but some also used to pass lewd comments and body shame us, saying, “Look at these ladies… what they are doing? They rather sit at home”. Initially, we didn’t pay heed to them but when it crossed a limit, my mother and I confronted them after which they stopped passing comments,” she said.
Rehnuma’s mother Shabnam who has been supporting her from day one, said, “Not only random people at the ground but some local Muslim scholars also objected”
“After seeing us, more women started joining us later and the number reached forty. However, this also drew an objection from some local Muslim scholars. They didn’t confront us directly but would raise their objection before the men of our community that we should not do this in public, rather sit at home as it is against the customs and all…,” said Shabnam.
“However, we didn’t stop going there to practise yoga as we knew we would face such hurdles. And we…