When speaking of Sonika Kaliraman, one of the very few professional female Indian wrestlers in the world, two forms of the word outstanding could be repeated over and over again.
She’s outstandingly beautiful.
At 6ft, 3 inches, she’s outstandingly tall.
Oh, there’s another one.
As an amateur wrestler, her record was outstanding.
She’s married to a successful businessman and is the mother of two children and seems to live an outstanding life where she has received most of what she wanted. She was quoted at the informative site techtipspro.com smiling, “I got married in the month of February. Even though it was an arranged marriage, I have found the man of my dreams and I feel very lucky!”
She was part of the cast of popular Reality TV Show named Big Boss, which is an outstanding accomplishment.
Big Boss is a television reality show broadcast on Colors channel in India. It follows the Big Brother format, which was first developed by Endemol in the Netherlands. Within a span of 9 years of telecast, Big Boss has rolled out 8 Seasons and one spin-off version thus establishing itself as one of the most popular Reality TV Series in India.
So much about Sonika seems to be outstanding including her ability to stand out by attracting controversy. While India is progressing in its view that women should be allowed to wrestle and their teams compete very well in the Asian and global female wrestling tournaments; still resistance persists.
Many outside the Indian wrestling community know that Chandgi Ram was a great wrestler who evolved to become a great coach of wrestling, but not many of them know that he was a great champion towards the cause of women’s wrestling as well.
He set up an akhara (a sort of wrestling arena and wrestling training center combined) to train women wrestlers for local, national and eventually, international events. His exceptional efforts had contributed to the increasing acceptance and also to the rising popularity of women’s wrestling among the mostly conservative Indian society.
Why would a tall striking beautiful girl like Sonika who could easily excel in traditional female oriented occupations like modeling or acting defy societal norms and wrestle?
Perhaps her background and upbringing sheds some light on the mystery.
She is daughter of former wrestler Chandgi Ram.
Mr. Chandgi Ram (popularly known as Master Chandgi Ram), won a Gold Medal at the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok and was the recipient of the Arjuna Award and Padma Shri.
Two years later, he represented India in the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich.
In June of 2010 the global news site hindustantimes.com added The Indian Olympic Association president, Suresh Kalmadi, condoled the death of the wrestling great saying, “The remarkable thing about Master Chandgi Ram was that he continued to contribute to wrestling way beyond his active career. He greatly encouraged women to take to the sport and set up an akhara in Delhi so that girls could play the sport, driving them to follow their dreams and carve a niche for themselves in wrestling.”
When techtipspro.com asked Sonika about her choice of the sport, she said, “I belong to a family of wrestlers and my father has been a very well-known name in the Indian wrestling community. It was because of my father that I was forced to learn the game. Women’s wrestling is not popular in India. Since kushti is considered a male domain, my father encouraged me to excel in the game.”
The entertaining site rediff.com continues, “Sonika was 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 endeavor against several odds.”
An assertive woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, Sonika came to public attention in a controversial way as reported by dnaindia.com. The report, “Indian female grappler Sonika Kaliraman’s recent allegations of sexual harassment by the selection committee and coaching staff of the WFI was today dismissed by her own teammates, who described the charges as “baseless and “malicious”.
Sonika, a wrestler-turned-model, had recently alleged that she also had been the victim of sexual advances and said the problem is far more of corrupt federation officials who demand favors from men and women for inclusion in the team.”
Fortunately she survived that in part because Indian sports was previously rocked by similar controversies when a little known female hockey player raised allegations of sexual harassment against their then chief coach, who was fired soon after.
Indian weight lifting also was plunged into a similar controversy when the Sydney Olympic medalist Karnam Malleswari alleged that the junior lifters were being sexually harassed by an SAI coach according to dnaindia.com.
Sonika is a survivor and world traveler.
Though she grew up and spent much time in Haryana and New Delhi, according to Wikipedia she was born in Chandigarh, a city you may not have heard of but should get to know. It’s one of the wealthiest in India.
Chandigarh, also known as The City Beautiful, is a city and a union territory in the northern part of India that serves as the capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana. As a union territory, the city is ruled directly by the Union Government of India and is not part of either state.
The city of Chandigarh was the first planned city in India post-independence in 1947 and is known internationally for its architecture and urban design. The master plan of the city was prepared by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, transformed from earlier plans created by the Polish architect Maciej Nowicki and the American planner Albert Mayer.
The city experiences extreme climate and uneven distribution of rainfall. The roads in Chandigarh are surrounded by trees and it has the third highest forest cover in India at 8.51 percent.
Chandigarh tops the list of Indian States and Union Territories by per capita income in the country. It was reported to be the cleanest city in India in 2010, based on a national government study, and the territory also headed the list of Indian states and territories according to Human Development Index.
Here is another welcome fact. Chandigarh is the first smoke-free city in India.
The lush travel source lonelyplanet.com expresses, “Chandigarh is a place to see India as it would like to be seen – prosperous, comfortable and cosmopolitan.
When the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was commissioned in 1950, he conceived a people-oriented city of sweeping boulevards, lakes and gardens and grand civic buildings, executed in his favorite material, reinforced concrete.
Each sector of the city is self-contained and pedestrian-friendly. Most visitors concentrate their attention on Sector 17 (for shops and restaurants) and Sector 22 (for hotels).”
The more I read about Chandigarh, like Sonika, the more I love what I see.
Okay female wrestling community. Please remember the name Sonika though we sense you are going to be hearing a lot more about her in the future. Everyone who meets her seems to be impressed.
A writer from the respected source naaree.com relates, “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 realized that she could break my weak male hand within seconds, if she chose to.”
I know what you are thinking. It sounds like she would make a great movie star in American films so we can watch her more often.
We can all dream about that day because like her golden name; hope springs eternal.
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Sources: brainyquote.com, Wikipedia, fciwomenswrestling.com, fciwomenswrestling2.com, FCI Elite Competitor, femcompetitor.com, photos thank you Wikimedia Commons.