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This PT Teacher is a Mascot for Khelo Ladakh

By Sabi Hussain | Aug 30, 2022

From Football And Rugby To Less Known Ice-Stock And Pencak Silat, Shanaz Parveen Is Doing A ‘Rancho’ On The Playground, Turning Sports Into A Way Of Life And A Window Of Opportunities In The Region

It is Saturday, 11.30am. The city of Leh, also known as the ‘Land of Lamas’, is shrouded in a thick cloud cover. The chilly winds blowing from the north of the Indus river valley almost scrape one’s cheeks. A spell of morning drizzle is glistening in the cold desert landscape. In the middle of this paradisical beauty is the Druk Padma Karpo school in Shey village, the ancient capital of Ladakh, on the Leh-Manali highway. It’s more familiar now as ‘Rancho’s school’ from ‘3 Idiots’.

It is recess and a group of students from Grade 7 and 8, speaking Bodhi, Ladakh’s local language, rush out of class for a game of ‘ice-stock shooting’, a sport similar to curling that is played on ice in the winter and on asphalt or other surfaces at other times. Shanaz Parveen calls the shots here, literally and otherwise. The 29-year-old physical education teacher, who has been with the school for three years now, is also the founder-director of Ladakh Ice- Stock Association.

An athlete, certified coach and sports administrator, Shanaz is the driving force behind the fledgling sporting revolution in Ladakh over the years, be it football, pencak silat (a form of full body martial arts) or ice-stock. Hailing from Leh’s Shey Yokma and raised by a single mother, Shanaz is no stranger to breaking gender stereotypes. Unemployment is high in the region, and Shanaz believes sports can not just open up opportunities but bring the community together.

“There was no professional women’s football team in Ladakh. So, I founded the club ‘Goals for Girls’ and started recruiting aspiring female footballers from the region. It helped that I am a football player myself and have represented the Government College for Women in Srinagar in several inter-university, district and state-level competitions,” Shanaz told TOI. “I formed the region’s first female ‘State Football Academy’ team affiliated to the J&K administration. The team won a state-level football competition (before J&K’s bifurcation) in 2017. In 2019, the junior team emerged winners in the U-13 Sunfeast football tournament in Ladakh.”

Shanaz introduced ice-stock last year. “It’s a sport which originated in Germany and is very famous in places like Bavaria and Austria. The equipment isn’t easily available in India and has to be imported from Germany. I personally made several rounds to the district collector (DC) & SDM office in Leh for funds but there was no response. The trainees practised with stones and aimed at the ice. At the 7th Ice-stock nationals held in January 2021, the girls team won gold while the boys settled for silver. In the second edition of the 2021 Khelo India Winter Games in Srinagar, the girls team emerged overall winners in the ice-stock competitions,” she said.

“I also introduced pencak silat and our senior boys and girls teams were among the medallists at the nationals in Chennai (2019) and All-India University Games in Karnataka (2019),” she added.

Shanaz is the founder-director of the Ladakh Tennis Ball Cricket Association, Ice-stock Ass o c i a t i o n , Curling Association, Pencak Silat Association and Tug of War Association, apart from being the general secretary of the Ladakh chapter of Veteran Indian Sports Wing. She is also an accomplished rugby, tug of war and basketball player.

Shanaz was initiated into sports by her club cricketer-uncle Ramzan when she was nine. In Class 6, Shanaz was selected in the district badminton team and later represented Ladakh in the J&K state badminton meet in Srinagar. She also captained the women’s football team of her school. After Class 10, she went to Srinagar’s Kothi Bagh Girls Higher Secondary School and diversified further in sports.

It wasn’t easy, though, to convince her mother Ayesha to send her to Srinagar. Shanaz lost her father, who was in the police, when she was just four. “It was very challenging for my mother to convince our relatives and the neighbourhood that she wanted her daughter to become a sportswoman. Leh is not that big a city and everyone here lives like a family. My mother used to hear things like ‘look, she’s coming home so late’ or ‘she’s roaming around with boys’, my fellow athletes,” recalled Shanaz. “Sometimes, it was just ‘sports is not meant for girls, no one will marry her if she gets injured’. But my mother stood by me like a rock. My father’s pension was our only source of income. Still, my mother never held back from funding my training needs or sending me to state- and national-level meets.

5,000 so that I can participate in the national rugby tournament in Delhi in 2010. One of her happiest moments was when I finished fifth in the cross-country run organised by the J&K police and won Rs 6,000 in prize money. My photos were published in local newspapers. It changed the mindset of people who used to discourage me,” said Shanaz, who was part of the team that won the title trophy in the state women’s football (2009) and rugby (2011) meets.

On returning from Srinagar after her graduation, Shanaz got down to instilling a culture of sports among children and youngsters. She has since organised district-level rugby, women’s football, tennis ball cricket, karate, ice-stock and pencak silat tournaments. Her coaching has paid off too. Besides successes in ice-stock, her teams bagged three bronze medals at the pencak silat nationals in Chennai in 2019, and she coached Ladakh SFA’s women football team and inter-school U-16 girls’ football team to title trophies in 2017 in Srinagar.

Married to school sweetheart Mohammed Arif, now a private tour operator, Shanaz said marriage has only heightened her passion to accomplish more. “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make,” she said, quoting English primatologist Dr Jane Goodall. “We want to produce future winter Olympians from Ladakh and, for that, we need infrastructure, equipment and monetary support. All I want is a little sensitivity from the government.”

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