‘As soon as I put my skates on, they became a part of me and skating became an amazing form of self-expression, reminisces Raysha Rajput. Rolling with pride in the rink, she trained 4 hours a day, every day, sprinting and shooting goals, fearlessly playing despite challenges and with protective gear that wasn’t up to the mark. From playing roller hockey for Team India to ice hockey in Switzerland, Raysha has come a long way. She shares her journey with Namaste Switzerland.
“Don’t go with the flow, be the flow” – Elif Shafak
Looking back, I wonder how brave my mum must have been to let me pursue roller hockey in India. We wore our bruises and stitches with pride. Skating was a passion, and bruises were the fashion. I never thought about the possibility of if and when I would stop skating and when I would lose this feeling – it felt irreplaceable. It was not easy, even when I was young (I started skating at 11 years ), when your body recovers so quickly, you are allowed to be reckless. I had only one goal – To belong to ‘Team India’. There was no stopping me. With my parent’s support, I felt fearless and blessed. I trained hard, travelled throughout India for tournaments (national camps and state level championships) , built my growing collection of medals and friends and newspaper articles.
In the year 2001, we won the bronze medal at the Asian Roller Hockey Championship held in Taipei, Taiwan.
The training continued every single day, 45 °C or 0 °C degrees. The following year, 2002, the Indian Women’s roller hockey team participated in the World Cup for the first time, (held in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal). I played defence. Panchkula ( Haryana, India) girls still remained the top players of the Indian roller hockey team. At that time, roller hockey players did not receive the recognition they deserved from the government. Parents had to fund the flight tickets.
However, the Haryana Government awarded scholarships to the players bringing home medals. The team spirit and my love for skating propelled me this far but I couldn’t see myself making a career in roller hockey at that time. Now, skaters in India are given deserving recognition and reward.
I decided to stop skating when I started college. It was a big change. When the training stopped, I had so much more free time and didn’t know what to do with it but at some level, I also wanted to live the teenage life I had missed out on. The list was long and at 18 years I wanted to experience the other side. Frankly, I was a bit tired of the intense discipline too.
But looking back, the life I had lived playing competitive sports, feels so much more valuable. Sports can shape a child’s mindset a way few things can. The discipline we (as a team) had to follow in every aspect of our lives was intense. Diet (protein for muscle building-raw eggs in a jug of milk and boiled chicken for breakfast), wardrobe (mostly t-shirt & shorts or tracksuits), hobbies (exercising to boost stamina and muscle strength, game planning with teammates and daydreaming about beating the boy’s team!), and even our school curriculum had to fit around the training schedules.
Skating saved me from getting into extreme academics. I needed more time to invest in training sessions and was very lucky to have my parents’ support. Mom let me follow my passion for skating without any hesitations or expectations. She stood beside me when I had to skip preparatory exams of the 10th grade (in India) to attend training camp for Asian Champion. She cut my training shorts (where I grew up, girls were not allowed to wear shorts at that time) and my hair, extremely short without bothering about relatives or neighbors criticisms.
I wonder what or where I would have been if skating wasn’t a part of my life. It shaped the story of my life.
But that’s not the only reason. I would not have started skating again if it wasn’t also my desire to take on fear. I obviously couldn’t forget to skate but I wasn’t young anymore and definitely not fit. Having suffered from shoulder and knee injury, I was scared, not of failing but I feared having to live without being able to give it my best shot.
Moving to Switzerland in 2014
It felt extremely overwhelming and humbling to join my first Ice Hockey club in Switzerland. But the training and my team motivated me to get back in shape, take good care of myself, stay fit, and invest time and energy wisely. My husband, Hamendra, being an avid sportsperson himself, understands the value of pursuing sports. He never stops believing in me.
It had been a slightly lonely journey. Despite being a loner, I still crave the feeling of belonging – when you are one piece of a puzzle you seek to find the rest of it and it then feels complete. Playing ice hockey with my club feels like that. Some may not always even remember my ‘foreign’ name and it doesn’t matter as long as we can all respect each other’s efforts and be together for the common love of Ice Hockey.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Shams Tabrizi
And that’s exactly how I feel when I step on the ice, gliding and sliding – The feeling of belonging is so strong & fulfilling like I am where I am meant to be.
Now, I train with two Ice Hockey clubs in Switzerland. And, when I am not training, recovering from an intense match or preparing for the next one, I love to spend time with Jayaditya, my son and my ‘Guru’ in a way. Doctors say he is on the autism spectrum, and this diagnosis wasn’t easy but now we see it as his superpower and also our source of strength.
This is one vague way (or my current perspective) of looking at autism. I know (from my personal experience) that it is tough for the families but maybe there is more than one road leading to happiness or maybe it’s possible to carve a new road and weave new dreams – and I meditate to help my body revive its naturally healthy state and for mental and physical stamina so that I can play ice hockey for many more years to come.
By, Raysha Rajput
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