What is common between C. Ramaswami, Sir Vivian Richards and Jonty Rhodes? They all represented their country in more than one sporting discipline.
Closer home, three Indians are notable for their sporting prowess namely, Sohini Kumari (Tennis and Squash), Somnath Chopra (Athletics & Volleyball) and Iftikhan Ali Khan Pataudi (Cricket & Hockey) represented India in more than one sporting discipline.
But wait! There is one Indian woman who surpassed them all.
Shireen was born in Mumbai and moved to Kolkata where she made her home. Shireen was a legendary sports woman of the Kolkata Maidan in the seventies and is still revered by athletes of the seventies who had the privilege to witness her ‘magical’ skills.
As per the book ‘Sport in South Asian Society: Past and Present’ by Boria Majumdar and J A Mangan, Parsi women represented Bengal and India in different cricket tournaments in the 70’s and Shireen was awarded the most outstanding sportswoman of 1974 by the Ladies’ Study Group.
Limca Book of records states that Shireen is the “Most versatile Indian Player” which has also been mentioned by S. B. Bhattacherje in his book Encyclopaedia of Indian Events and Dates.
Shireen’s Sporting Achievements:-
a) Was part of the India Hockey Team at the 3rd Asian Women’s Championship in December 1967 at New Delhi, winning the bronze medal. In 1970, she also toured Japan with the Indian Hockey Team;
b) Represented India in the Asian Women’s Basketball Championship in Kuala Lumpur in 1970;
c) Represented the Indian Women cricket team against Australia in India;
d) Also excelled in other sports namely Table Tennis, Tennis, Badminton and Carom.
We continuously speak about women’ empowerment in India and West Bengal. Here is a sportswoman who was far ahead of her time, for when she achieved her rare sporting distinction, woman’ sport was still at its nascent stage in this country.
Shireen’s sporting feat of representing a nation in three different sporting disciplines is rare even by international standards.
The West Bengal government who incidentally has a woman chief minister does not even acknowledge her presence as a sports woman from Bengal nor have they awarded her the Banga Bibhushan, Khel Samman Award, Banglar Gourab Award, Life Time Achievement Award or the special Khel Samman Award.
The West Bengal government speaks of giving emphasis to promote vulnerable sections like women in sport but conveniently turns a blind eye to the achievement of Shireen.
Not to be left far behind, successive governments at the Centre which was primarily led by the Congress Party furthermore did not acknowledge Shireen’ achievements.
Awards like Dhyan Chand Award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna Awards were not even considered in her case.
Why was Shireen not given her rightful place in sporting history by both the Centre and the West Bengal Government? Is it because she belonged to a microscopic minority? I leave the answer to your imagination.
Will Shireen ever be given her rightful place in the history of sports in India and more particularly West Bengal? Only time will tell.
Shireen left for the heavenly abode on 26th February 2006 at Mumbai. She is survived by her son and daughter both of whom have migrated to Australia.
(Phiroze Edulji is a lawyer by profession and is Managing Partner of Edulji&Edulji. The views expressed here solely belongs to the writer and does not in any way reflect the views and opinions of News World India)